Animal Genocide – “Lethal Control”

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog!

Ever since the levee debacle in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, I have not been a fan of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Their lack of foresight in erecting walls (levees) instead of expanding on the natural silt-building , plant dispersal system of the ebb and flow of the Mississippi River, created an anti-natural attempt to deal with a possible problem. Not having learned from this mistake, the levees were rebuilt a little higher than before,  but still not utilizing nature’s built-in safeguards. This group and the natural world are strangers.

The May , 2015  Queens, NY Edition of Natural Awakenings carried  an interesting article “Animal Genocide-‘Lethal Control’ Trades Off Species” on p. 8. I’ve never heard anything about this before, and was very surprised to hear that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will actually shoot 16,000 double-crested cormorants in Oregon over the next four years and 100 sea lions as a means of controlling their numbers in order to preserve other species deemed more valuable. Why kill them? They eat too much salmon and steelhead trout. Talk about anti-natural solutions!!!

I decided to do some investigating to discover the source, extent and other possible solutions to the problem. So, here’s the story.  “Lethal Control” is the term used by wildlife managers to describe the killing of one species to protect another species of animal. The Columbia River area of Oregon is not the only place this practice is in effect. Upstate New York, for example, also deals with the problem in the same way. Because of the cleaner environment and the decreased use of pesticides, the huge, migratory cormorant shows up in New York State destroying trees by nesting so the nesting habitats of other species of birds native to New York State , especially terns,  are destroyed and taken over. Also, the cormorants eat small bass which have economic importance for recreational and commercial fishing. When you hear about animal control, guns are used. Owls and ravens, for example, are also dealt with in this way.

Let’s take a look at the sea lions inhabiting the Oregon-Washington State-California coastline. Tourists flock to these areas to view these creatures in their natural habitats. The California sea lions eat salmon and trout but there are no longer enough sardines and anchovies near the Channel Islands of California to support the species. The sea lions are forced to travel further into Oregon and Washington State looking for food. Nursing mothers and pups are often not able to withstand  the longer swims and deeper dives. Unhealthy, malnourished sea lions wash up on shore, especially pups not strong enough to survive the perils imposed by near starvation. It is the males that most often make it to the Columbia River in Oregon. They must compete for salmon and trout with the economic importance of recreational and commercial fishing.

The cormorants and sea lions are blamed for the decrease in salmon and trout. Their crime is being hungry. In the meantime, the impact of hydroelectric dams in Oregon is ignored. We know marine mammals use echolocation and sonar and other underwater noises cause confusion which can lead to beaching. Perhaps salmon and trout are also adversely affected by hydroelectricity and are repelled or confused by the sounds and are creating new spawning patterns?

It might be possible to humanely move these sea lions to new habitats where their food is plentiful, if such a place can be located. Maybe reforestation can provide more trees or patterns can be changed for new migratory and nesting areas. Can salmon and trout be farmed to provide food for the starving sea lions so they can stay in California and not meet certain death in Oregon? Can industry take a serious look at its impact on the environment and the balance of nature and utilize environmentally safe policies?

“Lethal Control” is an almost too easy solution. It reduces the number of a species competing for the same food, but what happens to the species that depend on these species? What is the lasting effect on the food chain? It might very well give a short-term solution to a long- term problem. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must learn to work within the environment without upsetting the balance of nature. Their solutions should be environmentally friendly.

I’m not convinced that shooting these animals is the only way to solve the problem. If anyone has additional information on this subject, I’d love to hear from you.

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