60 Minutes ran a piece about exotic game ranches in Texas last night and it’s sure to ruffle a few feathers on both sides of the argument over so-called canned hunts. These are hunting expeditions that take place on private land and cater to the more affluent hunter in search of trophy game and exotic animals. Who knew that 125 non-native game species are currently at home on the range in Texas? In fact Texas is home to about 250,000 game animals, according to fourth generation Texas rancher Charley Seale, executive director of the Exotic Wildlife Association . . .
I have mixed feelings about controlled hunts when they involve domestic North American species, primarily from a laziness point of view. A guy who shoots a whitetail deer in captivity is simply too bone lazy to qualify as a legitimate hunter and doesn’t want to put in the hours tramping through the bush required to get a shot at a wild animal. These guys mail it in so much that they may as well stick to the meat department at Safeway.
Texas exotic game ranchers have actually substantially increased the population of endangered African antelope species like the scimitar horned oryx, the addax and the dama gazelle. Personally I have never heard of these animals (although gazelle definitely rings a big bell), but there are very few of them left in Africa.
The fact is that African poachers have claimed most of the native populations of these game animals. But now they are a new Texas agricultural growth industry that caters to exotic game hunters. The Texas ranchers allow hunters to shoot animals for a fee applied to each kill that is appropriate to the rarity of the beast. An oryx will run about $4500 and a Cape buffalo will set you back about $50k.
It’s a billion dollar industry that supplies more than 14,000 jobs in Texas. Thousands of hunters engage in the hunts every year and cull the massive herds to the tune of about 10% annually. The ranches are typically Texas-sized big (one example was 30,000 acres), so the game have a lot of elbow room to avoid the hunter. It is not exactly shooting-fish-in-a-barrel style hunting on most of these large ranch hunts.
However, the entire business has drawn the wrath of Priscilla Feral, an animal activist who is the current president of Friends of Animals. Feral condemns the practice because she does not want to see the animals raised simply for game hunting in Texas. But she failed to give a suitable alternative to extinction in Africa for the animals outside of game ranches in Texas. Instead she presumably would rather see them dead than bred – Texas at any rate.
Feral’s argument made very little sense to me, but she’s managed to raise enough unholy hell to get legislation proposed that would seriously curtail the ability to hunt exotic game in the United States. In other words, she may be able to kill the exotic game industry with new government red tape. Her efforts may also kill off the species because the ranchers are upfront about their business motives for propagating the exotic game.
Take away the profit incentive for the ranchers and you may just take away the survival of the species, a little fact that does not seem to bother Priscilla Feral. To me this woman is just another left-leaning activist who has perched herself on her own emotionally charged and completely illogical moral high ground. And to think I was the guy who expected to condemn the ranchers in that 60 Minutes piece.