Tuesday Bag o’ Bleeding Heart

bleeding heartWhat am I being a big old pussy about today? Trapping.

A young nephew in Missouri is a hunter. He also traps coyotes and bobcats and posts photos on Facebook. Photos of living animals in pain. I unfriended him yesterday in order to block those photos. That sounds pathetic and weak, but I don’t know what else to do.

I grew up around hunting and fishing. I’ve eaten plenty of game and devoured many a trout. I was a lousy hunter myself, but my father raised us on venison and elk. I knew families in Alaska who could not have gotten through the winters without the moose and caribou they hunted. I’m fine with hunting … it’s killing critters just to be killing them that bothers me.

Years ago I lived in northeastern Montana, where local ranchers regard wild animals as enemies and kill them wholesale. My father and I were riding home from a fishing trip late one night, sitting in the back seat of a car driven by a local ranchhand. His headlights picked up a mother raccoon and several kits crossing the highway ahead. Instead of braking, our driver hit the gas and took aim. We thumped over the raccoons, certainly killing the mother and probably one or two of the kits.

My father and I talked about it later. If we’d been closer to home, Dad said, he would have asked the ranchhand to stop and let us out so that we could walk the rest of the way. I felt the same way, and have never forgotten my shock at the senselessness of running over those animals. But that’s typical farming and ranch country behavior, and it happens everywhere, not just in northeastern Montana. Coyotes, foxes, badgers, rabbits, bobcats, crows, hawks, they’re all to be killed on sight. Farmers and ranchers killed all the wolves, mountain lions, and bears years ago. If the law didn’t prohibit it, they’d kill all the eagles too. Hell, locals in Tucson do the same thing, even though there’s no farming or ranching here.

There are valid arguments for culling predator populations when numbers grow too large. If coyotes and bobcats were breeding out of control and attacking citizens in their front yards, snatching babies from their cribs, or even eating all of Farmer Brown’s chickens, I’d say sure, trapping is a necessary evil. My sister in Montana (Montana again!) sets out cage traps for wild animals, mostly raccoons (raccoons again!), who would otherwise eat everything in her vegetable garden. But what exactly is my nephew in Missouri protecting?

Here are two of the recent photos he posted to Facebook. You can click on the thumbnails to see the larger photos on Flickr.

trapper trap

Until recently, most of his photos showed him kneeling next to individual coyotes, foxes, and bobcats he’d trapped. The scale of the carnage in the first photo here is disturbing enough, but it’s the second photo that repulses me. That’s a steel-jawed leghold trap, the kind of trap that causes excruciating pain and terror. No, Virginia, coyotes don’t gnaw their own legs off in order to escape. They just suffer horribly. I’ll be charitable and assume my nephew checks his traps daily. Even so, if an animal steps into one of these traps at dusk, it’s going to be writhing in agony for 12 to 18 hours before my nephew shows up to shoot it in the head and put it out of its misery. Pausing even for the time it takes to shoot a trophy photo of the terrified animal piles cruelty on top of cruelty. Yes, I’m repulsed. I want to get out of the car and walk home. Call me a pussy. Call me a bleeding heart. This is wrong. And that’s what’s bothering me today.


I started following Anonymous (@KYAnonymous) on Twitter after they outed the Steubenville Ohio kids who drugged and gang-raped a 16-year-old girl, and then almost got away with it because they were members of a beloved local high school football team. What Anonymous is doing is dangerous stuff. On the one hand, justice was not done and now, thanks to their intervention, at least some of these assholes might pay a price for what they did. On the other hand, what about those California day care people who were accused of pedophilia several years ago? Their lives were ruined, and they had done nothing. They were victims of a witch hunt, and a witch hunt is what Anonymous has started in Steubenville. They’ve already taken down the high school coach, the kid who bragged about it on YouTube, at least two of the actual rapists, and possibly the local sheriff. They’d better be right. Still, I wish Anonymous had been around a few years ago. I’m thinking of you, former members of the Duke University lacrosse team.


2 thoughts on “Tuesday Bag o’ Bleeding Heart

  • I’d ask if your nephew even bothered to preserve the pelts so they could be used commercially but I think I already know the answer. Ditto if he butchered the carcasses and put them in the freezer.

    We find it necessary kill nuisance critters on occasion. When our efforts to repel them fail, they find their way to the freezer. But they are dispatched quickly and cleanly. And their remains do not wind up in a landfill.

    And I guess I’m just naive but I thought the leg-hold traps were just about eradicated, at least in the lower 48, some time ago. Too bad, there are a lot of humane (both lethal and non-lethal) ways to trap nuisance animals. The fur industry after a ton of pressure from animal rights groups led this charge some time ago.

    As far as the witch hunt goes, that’s the problem with the information age. Once the media gets hold of it, you are tried and convicted long before the case comes to trial.

    Is George Zimmerman guilty of murder? Were the police a bunch of racists who only arrested him after a public outcry? Or did he act in self defense within the stand your ground statutes? None of it matters because the public has already made their minds up without a shred of evidence presented. The guy’s life is ruined. I can only hope he is truly guilty because he’s going to pay the price anyway.

    Anyone remember Richard Jewell?

    And if he is found not guilty, the riots that will follow will cause immeasurable damage to life, limb and property. And then of course, we’ll all be forced to undergo the civil case. OJ all over again.

    I think I’m rambling so I’ll let go with this:

    Funny how we go to great lengths to see to the humane execution of death row inmates but we allow wild animals to suffer such a cruel and painful passing. You’d think it would be the other way around right?

  • Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Gopher. My sister (the young man’s mother) points out that he does sell the pelts, and even stuffs some of the animals … a budding taxidermist, though I don’t know who buys stuffed coyotes (bobcats, maybe). So he’s not just killing to be killing, and I acknowledge that there’s more to it than that. But the sheer cruelty of the way he traps animals cannot be denied, and those trophy photos cause me heartache. My other sister (there are two more who haven’t weighed in yet) points out that the coons she traps in Montana are trapped humanely and that she would release them live if there was a way to ensure they wouldn’t just come back and eat her crops again. She is nothing like that ranch hand I rode with so long ago.

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