Thursday, July 21, 2005

falconry, conservation and catch and release

This is one of those thorny issues that, for me, came to a head in 2001 when the California Hawking Club newsletter gave their take on the idea. The author reminded us that catch and release was illegal, and that all quarry, once taken into possession, must be killed immediately. Furthermore, he went out on a limb attempting to support the idea by calling it ecologically unsound, with a pitiful slippery-slope argument that an animal weakened and stressed by capture will succumb to diseases and will in turn infect the healthy population.

This is one of those places where the law is ridiculously more applicable to guns than falconry. There are quite a few such laws, but this one I believe needs serious correction. I don't think anyone could convince me that catch and release is a bad thing.

A hawk trained to step off the quarry does little injury and, in my experience, allows a falconer to release game between 50% and 75% of the time, even when taking a conservative view of injuries one considers life-threatening. A careful examination of the captured quarry (looking for signs of shock, potential places where serious infection will set in, broken bones) will give a correct judgement about 98% of the time.

C&R sustains the population. In my early days as an overenthusiastic falconer, I caught and killed an average of 35 jackrabbits per year in one particular field. Over the course of three years, I saw the population plummet, and knew it was all my doing. After I began catching and releasing, over the next three or four years I could see the jack population rising. At that point the field was destroyed for a business park, but if it had not, I have no doubt it would have returned to its original numbers. I know falconers who marked caught quarry and thus knew with certainty that the animal had been caught again, and again, and again.

I agree that C&R does make the game more wary, and smarter. However, I consider this a good thing (even on those days when I just want to get it over with.) You're training the rabbits to elude your bird. Your bird must become correspondingly more creative and skilled in its hunting. Any falconer can tell you that a popular field is more difficult.

Some rhetorical questions:

What if my bird catches an endangered animal? This forces me to break one law in order to comply with another. In my case, burrowing owls is the thorny issue, of which my hawks have caught at least five, all released. Killing the burrowing owl is just as much a crime (IMO, greater) than releasing.

[A personal horror story, unrelated to this, was seeing a field get a fence slapped around it and signs posted prominently: Endangered Species Area. Within the course of 18 months, it was flattened, and a shopping center, with a Lowe's and a Costco, had been built on it.]

Sport fishing has had a long and wise tradition of C&R. Naturally so, since they are far more populous than falconers and will put more stress on a limited resource. Yet it is just as illegal, so why is it that the sport fishing press has no compunctions about discussing C&R openly?

I'll happily teach anyone how to train a hawk to step off. Do try catch and release, or talk to someone who does it. It's always worthwhile to give an animal a chance at life rather than destroy it immediately and irrevocably.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Falconry ARG

It's not really AR, just a puzzle. Or puzzling.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Language, sideways

I'm not a child psychologist, I have neither training nor degrees in psychiatry, but with the spirit of foolish bravery, I'm going to theorize a bit about language in people who aren't constrained by semantics. Being empirical by nature, I give some real-world examples from which I'll hopefully draw a conclusion.

    One of my relatives is twenty-five or so, but mentally she is perhaps between six and eight years of age. She's very charming and sweet, and is capable enough to hold down a job. One evening I was paying a lot of attention to her, getting into her games (she can find unending amusement in poking you, and being poked, in the ribs) and talking with her. When we were preparing to leave after dinner, she said, "You look like my mother."
    This was a bit of a shock (and I doubt her mother would have liked it, too), but I thanked her for the compliment. I believe she meant I had given her the kind of loving attention her mother gives to her, and she was bestowing on me the fondness she has for her mother.

    Some years ago, in a coffee shop, I was approached by a young man in his late twenties or early thirties. Decently good looking, though a little haggard at the edges; stocky build. I forget the exact circumstances but he ended up sitting at my table, or I at his. After a few minutes of talking and observing, I realized he was mentally distanced from the world. I don't know if his exact issue was schizophrenia or something else, but the affliction was medium: he was able to interact in conversation.
    The only thing I remember him saying was that he "used to be a lot bigger." Which I don't think he meant physically, but the manner of person he'd been, the ego, the self-confidence.

    I'm presently e-mailing with someone who's just barely connected to the earth. The talk is largely one-way, but he does react to some things I say. If he was fully schizoid I don't think there would be any reaction at all. It's very difficult to summarize all he's said, but among myriad points of interest he has two of note. First, he seems fixated on people named Anne. This is the name of someone on a mailing list we all belong to and to whom he wrote directly; of someone he thought I was; of Boleyn, whom he accused me of being; and lastly the name on my email account (Anne Animus.) Second, he has fond memories of boyhood (seemingly the best part of his life, which may have included falconry).
    This all converged in his accusation that "because of my misplaced anger, a Boy Scout died on the Animus River." Call me thick-headed or thick-skinned, but until he made that statement, I hadn't thought he was really that crazy.[1]
    This statement struck me as particularly raw for someone otherwise full of lies, half-truths, and classic delusions of grandeur. As I said, the reality of schizophrenia struck home. It's no fun for the sufferer; they are actually in a hell of sorts, where an unreality grows and swallows up reality. The unreality is alternately more comfortable and more distressing than reality.
    The statement was telling me something important, in the sideways manner on which I'm trying to get a grasp. I think he was telling me about a trauma that divided his childhood and adulthood, the loss of freedom and the shouldering of responsibility. Of course, I have no way of confirming if this is accurate, or the nature of the loss, since he hasn't written to me in a few days.[2]

Concluding in...
    In all three, a very simple and clear physical metaphor has been made to stand in for a situation that can't be described concisely, or too difficult to wrap one's mind around, or has so many complicated notions within it that to articulate them all would cause an explosion. (Which is in itself somewhat the kind of physical metaphor I'm describing!) It would be a very interesting literary foil to play with if working them up wasn't so hard, not to mention the pain to the reader to try to figure them out without benefit of explanation. I imagine that a writer would have to build a character or situation to fair solidity in the reader's mind before letting such metaphors fly.

[1] In my defense, I've also had experiences with people with Usenet psychosis: they're pretty much sane, but so obsessed with their own words that they create extra user names, sock puppets in internet parlance, to talk to themselves and make their Usenet group appear active and lively. Consequently my definition of sane is rather loose. As for anger, I had given him an earful for his self-absorbed off-topic posts. I don't know exactly what he meant by 'misplaced,' but I theorize this is because I asked his sock puppet if it and he were the same person. This upset him greatly, as he seems to consider his sock puppet a gentle female soul in need of protection.

[2] This essay's focus is on the use of language, but I'm not completely soulless. I did suggest to this man, using his own metaphors and symbols, that there was hope for his sanity, and to get help.