Foxes, government and crony environmentalism

Once upon a time a family of red foxes lived on an island just off the North Carolina coast. One day some people from a federal agency came to set leg-traps. They caught two foxes and killed them. What did these beautiful, shy mammals do to warrant this treatment? They were suspected of feeding on sea turtle eggs. But no one knew whether or not they were guilty; and, if so, they were only doing what wild animals do necessarily to survive free and independent.

A recent Wilmington StarNews article by Kate Queram (link) raises some troubling questions about this sad tale:

What is a government “recovery plan” that “makes it necessary to thin the island’s population” of foxes? Masonboro and Zeke’s Islands is one of four areas in a 10,000 acre “Wilmington District” in the North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve. These preserves are part of a network of coastal land controlled by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency partnering with other federal agencies and coastal states (link). Research on “sea turtle nesting success” is one of several purposes broadly ranging from land preservation to spreading environmental propaganda. (link) The Estuary Restoration Act puts five federal agencies in cahoots with states to fund a plethora of projects (link). Based on these websites it seems to me there’s no limit to what federal operatives can plan or carry out on lands that they control.

For example, I wonder why bureaucrats mandate that “predation levels should be kept below 10 percent” when the natural predation rate (on sea turtles) has averaged 60 percent during the past six years? Mortality rates for all wild animals is normally high, yet few species face extinction. What other animals prey on sea turtles? Dogs, birds, raccoons, crabs, lizards and other animals prey on them. Should they all die under the presumption that a certain number of turtles must live?

My studies in ecological research taught that observations, measurements and descriptions be used objectively to understand conditions and activities of animals interacting with their habitat? Policy decisions about management had no place in scientific research. Killing foxes to save turtles obviously is an attempt to manipulate populations. However, apparently based on little knowledge of the relationship between predator and prey, this island is set aside exclusively as a turtle hatchery with questionable value—decisions have been made that turtle nests must be protected above all other considerations.

Why are foxes targeted for destruction when “there’s no comprehensive estimate” of their population and officials have no idea of how many to trap? The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a federal agency originally established to assist the states to protect game animals, provided “a $15,000 grant” to trap and kill the Masonboro foxes. In this vendetta against the mammals, even the U. S. Department of Agriculture is in on this caper—on an uninhabited coastal barrier island. We’d be curious to know who arbitrarily decides what wild animals in natural environments are more important than others. And what justifies public expense on heroic- effort projects to save individuals from natural hazards?

I think all this smacks of politics. Here on the North Carolina coast expensive state-run aquaria feature sea turtles to help draw crowds of tourists; (link) animal activists indoctrinate public school children with an emotional attachment to these creatures;(Link) human names and characteristics are assigned to them. People operate sea turtle “rescue hospitals” on the Carolina coast—front page press stories with dramatic pictures draw regional attention when a treated turtle is released into the Atlantic Ocean. (link)

Is this another example of government collusion with environmentalists? There is something else called “crony-capitalism: deceitful activities between certain businesses and government. Could there be such a thing as crony-environmentalism?

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About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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