John Aberth: Wildlife management should be driven by science, not politics

John Aberth: Wildlife is a valuable public resource. Why do we waste it?

This commentary is from John Aberth, a volunteer Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator who rehabilitates beavers, raptors and other animals at Flint Brook Wildlife Rescue in Roxbury.

The news lately has been filled with stories of beavers being hailed as the new “climate change engineers” and “climate solving heroes” for their ability to create drought-tolerant aquifers and reservoirs and firebreaks. verdant, even in the midst of devastating forest fires.

In western states, such as California, Nevada, and Utah, beavers are deliberately introduced to areas, including pastures and pastures, through a “starter” or ” analogues” of beaver dams, to encourage beavers to stay. and do their valuable work, all for free.

Meanwhile, here in Vermont, a supposedly environmentally progressive state, we kill more than 1,000 beavers a year, on average (although statements from trappers are inconsistent), all to cater to the recreational tastes of the local community of trappers. , which is only 0.1% of Vermont’s total population.

This does not include the 500 to 600 “nuisance” beavers trapped by Vermont cities to supposedly protect road culverts, and other “nuisance” beavers in unknown numbers trapped by private landowners. This means that over 1,000 potential aquifers and wetlands are lost to the state each year.

If you think Vermont can afford to lose these natural wetlands because wildfires and droughts rarely happen here, you’re dead wrong. To date, this current year, 2022, has been the driest in Vermont’s recorded history for the past 128 years. Climate change will only worsen this trend.

We need our beavers alive, working on the landscape to create buffers against climate change, not killed by trappers who skin them for pelts no one wants anymore or in the name of ‘tradition’.

The same could be said for almost all other furbearers currently targeted by trappers: bobcats, coyotes, foxes, minks, fishers, etc., all feed on mice as one of their main food sources and are therefore our first line of defense against Lyme disease. — which has its second-highest incidence right here in Vermont — by helping to break the chain of infection by which ticks become infected by feeding on mice infested with Borrelia burgdorferi.

It is a well-established principle that the public good takes precedence over the private desires of a few individuals. Title 10 VSA 4081 of the Vermont Statutes states that the Department of Fish and Wildlife shall manage wildlife in the state “in the interest of the public welfare”.

Yet currently, the trapping lobby has a stranglehold on Vermont wildlife policy: all current members of the Fish & Wildlife Board, for example, are hunters, anglers, and/or trappers, with no possibility for other voices to be heard.

So it’s up to the public to pressure the legislature to enact laws that will benefit both wildlife and humans, like a statewide trapping ban.

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Tags: beavers, climate change, Fish and Wildlife Department, john aberth, trapping

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