two game wardens, seven hunters, and a cow

So, this isn’t immediately apparent about me when people look me up, but — I live in Western New York, home of deer whose reproduction habits better resemble rabbits’. Except for the tendency of said deer to become involved in MVAs (sometimes causing them; my chem teacher had some stories…) they do not bother me. I keep a lawn strewn with oregano instead of chemical grass lusheners and the deer come strolling through year-round.

Sure, you can’t grow tulips in my neighborhood without caging them, but on the plus side, deer! In the yard! Being pretty and peaceful! And we have rabbits, too, and… and chipmunks, and woodchucks, and we’ve had the odd raccoon but I think they got bored with us.

I love me some wildlife. I’m happy to play host. We’re reasonably countrified; this was their habitat first. We’re happy to coexist, we’re not competing for resources, and if local biologists should discover that overpopulation is detrimental, then I will gladly support non-lethal efforts to bring the population back to a reasonable level.

I understand the desire to get back to the land, learn a survival skill, maybe connect with what your great-greats did. I have a bow. I have at least ten arrows left, gorgeous Port Orford cedar shafts, helical fletching. I have access to nonliving targets. (I love the SCA.) I personally am uncomfortable killing anything for fun that cannot kill me. It would be one thing if I intended to feed my parents venison and dress us in leather; I think my friend Nikki could treat the skins. I learned as a young child that the Iroquois were keen on using all parts of the animal; that idea got fixed in my mind, and I’ve never let it go.

And all that aside, to be honest, I’m bothered that science got a kick in the teeth. Cecil was not just any lion. He wasn’t even just anyone’s favorite lion, though having lost my Bodie recently, I admit I cried for everyone who did love him. He was being tracked in order to gain data that might have contributed to the conservation of his species — for certain data that would have helped us understand it better. An unnatural death is a data point, yes, but it’s not a new one. What more could we have learned if not for two greedy poachers and a woefully ignorant dentist?

Gavin Newsom recently made the point that if the dentist in question had donated $50,000 in dental work to those in need, he might still have a practice and a good name (and the world a fine lion). But I will not say the dentist’s name, just as I do not say the name of the child whose fit of racist pique turned into a terrorist attack on a prayer group. Instead, I will repeat Cecil’s name for you, that you remember him, and ask that you visit his humans’ website:

You might feel big for a little while after a trophy kill. If you begin to embrace compassion, you will become big — you will grow — and love is what happens when you grow this way. Let a little love into your life, and a few animals too.


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