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home : columns : columns July 22, 2014

5/1/2013 8:12:00 AM
Where have all the eagles gone?
Golden eagle on the wing, but with a paralyzed foot. photo by Charlie Baughman
+ click to enlarge
Golden eagle on the wing, but with a paralyzed foot. photo by Charlie Baughman

By Jim Anderson

The time has come to add fur-trapping to those we once held fast as an integral part of our culture and have since abolished - such as child labor and not allowing women to vote.

In the 50-plus years I've lived in Oregon I've seen some pretty lousy things happen to our wildlife, and trapping is the worst. My old pal Ed Park and I once found a badger near Brothers in a leg-hold trap that had been suffering for so long it dug a circular ditch round-and-round on the end of the chain attached to the trap. The ditch was so deep I sat in it and could not see over the rim. And the badger was still alive. We released it -which was illegal.

Trapping for sport and income is a blatant contradiction of Oregon State Law. On one hand, it is illegal to abuse animals, while on the other, it is not only legal to trap animals - perhaps the cruelest and most abusive method of treating any animal - but also encouraged by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the agency charged with protecting Oregon wildlife.

We frequently hear about people who have been cited for mistreating animals. Horses, dogs, and cats are removed from people's responsibility because they have been abused. Yet, trapping goes on, and young people are encouraged by the state to take it on as a form of recreation. There is no way of telling what was/is caught unintentionally and what happened to the animal(s).

There is a snappy little saying passed along in the trapper's mystique that says it all for an animal trapped unintentionally: "Shoot-Shovel-And-Shut Up," and that gets me to the subject of eagles.

I know through personal experience that "shoot-shovel-and-shut up" means exactly what it says. I received a phone call from a man who opened the conversation this way: "If you promise not to call the cops, I'll give you this big eagle I have in my garage."

What an opener...

When I asked him how he came to have an eagle in his possession he said he was a bobcat-trapper working the Fort Rock country and had put out a "sight-set" for bobcats under a juniper tree, but caught the eagle by mistake.

(A "sight-set" is a dead rabbit or other bait hung from the lower branches of a juniper with traps beneath it. The problem with that technique is a magpie or raven usually spots the bait first; an eagle chases off magpies and/or ravens and the unfortunate eagle ends up in the trap.)

"Most of the guys out there kill and bury any eagles they catch, but I couldn't do that to this one," the caller said. "It's so big and feisty and wants to live."

After further chin-

wagging we reached an agreement: I wouldn't call law enforcement and he allowed me to come to his place and collect the eagle - which was not as easy as it sounds.

The foot that had been in the trap was mangled, and when I took the eagle to the vet, he confirmed it could not be repaired and had to be amputated. I could not keep the eagle in captivity as my rehab permit had expired, so he put on a break-away cast with medication that would (hopefully) keep the stump from getting infected.

I banded the eagle with a federal bird band and released it near Fort Rock - hoping it had learned a lesson and would stay away from bobcat bait. Apparently it did, because eight years later the banding lab informed me the eagle had been found dead by a state wildlife officer in Northern California. Someone had shot it.

Take a look at that eagle Charlie Baughman photographed near his home on the Deschutes. It is one of the lucky ones who escaped from a leg-hold trap, but was left with a permanently paralyzed foot.

My wife, Sue, and I are helping to conduct a five-year census of golden eagles. Unfortunately, we're finding a great many empty cliff nests with no eagles in the vicinity this year. What we are finding, however, is plentiful evidence of four-wheel-drive vehicles using the normally unused backcountry roads in winter leading to and from those same cliffs.

I know it is presumptuous of me to say these are trappers' rigs, but the evidence is pretty good when we find skinned coyote carcasses laying out in the sagebrush in these areas. I wonder about: "Shoot-Shovel-And-Shut Up."

I have to agree with what the Trap Free Oregon ( group says:

"Oregon has a long tradition of fur trapping. Long ago, when people were scarce and wildlife was abundant it was a viable way to make a living for Oregonians. Now that people are abundant and wildlife is scarce, it just doesn't make sense.

"Oregonians love their wild areas. We visit them all through the year for sport and recreation. Hiking, camping, horseback riding, mountain biking, boating, fishing, hunting, bird-watching, skiing, and snowshoeing - to name just a few. There is no justification for a handful of trappers to hold the rest of the population hostage to their deadly devices."

Bring up http://trapping, the "Trapping Today" website, that "provides information and entertainment for the modern trapper." It shows what wildlife pelts are selling for and who is buying them. Then ask yourself if all the abuse and destruction to our wildlife treasurers by trapping makes any sense.

Sisters Country Weddings

Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, May 5, 2013
Article comment by: Jack Williamson

Well said, Jim.

Its obvious to me that the ODFW is way out of step and cannot be relied upon to stop the abusive practice of trapping.

I support the 2014 initiative to ban trapping in Oregon.

Posted: Thursday, May 2, 2013
Article comment by: R. fullenwider

Thank you for this article, Jim.
People just don't know.
Once they have the facts, there is (almost) unanimous consensus that "trapping" has no place in the 21st century.
Support the upcoming initiative to ban this "sport" in Oregon on the 2014 ballot.

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