by Ron Spomer
The philosophy of Little Bo Peep kills.
“Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep and doesn’t know where to find them. Leave them alone and they’ll come home, wagging their tails behind them.”
The Little Bo Peep syndrome, a persistent, modern myth perpetuated by soft-hearted people and Hollywood — salves the collective guilty conscience and keeps the money rolling in. But this kills wildlife.
From the old Little Bo Peep nursery rhyme we’ve expanded this idea that we can leave Nature alone and she’ll take care of all the nice animals. Bluebirds and butterflies dancing with lions everywhere. Human interference only screws things up. Applied to animated movies, this theory is a money maker. Applied to wildlife, it’s a disaster.
It is absolutely true that Nature figured out how to populate this planet with billions of life forms in hundreds of thousands of ways. And She did it without help from humans. She also figured out how to keep these life forms fresh, young and thriving.
But that’s part of the problem.
We humans like new life, new babies and — awww, puppies! But in order to get those and keep them alive, Nature arranges for them to die. Usually brutally, usually painfully, usually early. Wolves, lions and coyotes love deer and elk fawns. And anything else warm, cuddly, tender and tasty. If they don’t eat the cute babies, too many would would grow up to eat all the innocent plants. And then they’d all starve.
So let’s pretend that doesn’t happen.
But it does. Nature has always killed Her own with heartless, reckless abandon. Floods, fires, drought, volcanoes, blizzards, sub-zero temperatures and ordinary, everyday predation. Kind, gentle Mother Nature is, in the vocabulary of the anti-hunting crowd, bloodthirsty. Ignoring all this wasn’t a big problem 1,000 years ago. Humans didn’t have to meddle or manage because much of the word was still wild. There was enough connectivity between natural, wild habitats to absorb disasters. Still abundant animals from outside of disaster areas could filter in and repopulate. Well, some of the time.
All by herself and completely without the evil efforts of blood-thirsty humans, Nature somehow managed to wipe out virtually every species of dinosaur. She also took down Irish elk and stag moose and dire wolves and cave bears and… Paleontologists have reportedly identified more extinct species of vertebrates than current living species.
But never mind all that. Today’s popular paradigm is that humans are the cause of all animal extinctions. In recent centuries we have swarmed the Earth, crushing to oblivion passenger pigeons, dodo birds, Labrador ducks, ivory-billed woodpeckers…
So, according to the Bo Peepers, we are the bad guys, the only species that meddles in Nature and ruins her. Enough already! Leave Nature alone and she’ll do just fine. No studies, no tests, no trapping and transferring, no leg bands or radio collars, no inoculations and, above all, no killing. Wildlife will thrive. Just leave it alone!
Luckily, and to the chagrin of these soft-hearted myth lovers, a small cadre of realists haven’t been listening. For more than a century hunter-conservationists have been stepping up to dirty their hands and save wildlife.
A hundred years ago pragmatic conservationists, biologists, birders, hunters and wildlife users stopped the indiscriminate slaughter of bison, waterfowl, egrets, pronghorns, sheep, turkey, deer… pretty much all wildlife. They voluntarily limited bag limits and curtailed hunting seasons. They then planted grasses and trees, protected wetlands from drainage, established parks and wildlife refuges, raised millions of dollars to hire game wardens and research biologists, and nurtured endangered species. Conservation-hunters reintroduced animals to former haunts, many of which they’d recreated from bare dirt. Within the span of 70 years these hunter-conservationists saved, protected, nurtured and restored dozens of species to abundance. Whitetail deer and giant Canada geese. Moose and wolves. Wood ducks and bald eagles. Elk and pronghorns. Bluebirds and black-footed ferrets. Hunter-conservationists have saved dozens of species and restored to abundance scores more.
This restoration and protection continues across North America, the most successful, large scale model of wildlife conservation in history. While African and Asian countries with no legal hunting seasons wipe out their indigenous wildlife, North American hunters protect, maintain and increase theirs, all the while enjoying the annual, sustainable harvest of Nature’s largess. Nature demands that Her creatures live, kill, eat, mate and die in a perpetual cycle. As it was, so it is and always shall be.
But that doesn’t seem to register with the Bo Peep myth makers. They insist on believing humans are somehow evil, are somehow outside of this system of life and death. So instead of celebrating the wildlife saving work done by hunter-conservationists, they fight effective, proven, hands-on conservation programs as a sort of jihad. They insist that humans must leave Nature alone. They insist we are too ignorant, too stupid, too incompetent, too blood thirsty and evil to help wildlife.
Lord save us and our wildlife from the ignorant victims of the Bo Peep syndrome.
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