April, the Giraffe, may be an internet sensation, but that hasn’t stopped Congress from quietly reviving hunting practices many animal lovers consider to be barbaric.
This week, Congress overturned a Fish and Wildlife Service rule that stopped Alaskan hunters from killing hibernating bears and wolves in their dens, shooting the animals from helicopters, and using steel leg traps on federal land.
Animal lovers are not pleased.
The bill, which overturns an Obama era rule, passed largely along party lines and will now go to the White House for Trump’s signature, according to Wayne Pacelle, president of The Humane Society.
“What the Senate did today should outrage the conscience of every animal lover in America. The passage of this bill means that we’ll see wolf families killed at their dens, bears chased down by planes or suffering for hours in barbaric steel-jawed traps or snares.”
The bill prohibits the president from issuing any further orders on the subject leaving Congress the sole authority to regulate the matter. It was passed as a state’s rights issue, but a recent poll shows Alaska voters oppose the new hunting laws by a measure of more than 2-1.
The rule banning the hunting practices was enacted last year when the Fish and Wildlife said it would promote ethical hunting practices, but Republican lawmakers argued it made their state subservient to federal authority.
The new hunting law, which the Senate approved 52-47, would return control to the state of Alaska.
Democrats, environmental groups, and animal protection agencies were quick to protest the move saying it revived barbaric hunting practices, as Sen. Maria Cantwell told the New York Daily News.
“This isn’t about states’ rights. It’s not about prohibiting hunting. It’s about how we can manage these wildlife refuges to the degree that agencies believe are necessary for the preservation of these wildlife heritage areas.”
The bill would authorize hunters on federal wildlife refuges in Alaska to enter the winter dens of hibernating bears and wolves and shoot them at point blank range. It also allows the killing of young cubs and pups, as well as their mothers.
The proposed hunting law reinstates the practice of using painful steel leg traps, which leave wild animals in pain for days even though it’s documented that animals have been known to chew their own legs off to escape.
There are 76 million acres covering 16 national wildlife refuges in Alaska that fall under federal regulation that would be affected by the hunting law, which Trump is expected to sign.
While animal lovers are outraged at what they consider barbaric hunting practices, some officials including former Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe, consider the bill an attack on federally-managed lands, according to The Dodo.
“Special interest groups are quietly working at the federal and state level to lay the groundwork for federally managed lands to be handed over wholesale to state or even private ownership.
“Unfortunately, without the protections of federal law and the public engagement it ensures, this heritage is incredibly vulnerable.”
Supporters of the bill argued the revived practices would help lower the number of apex predators roaming the wilds of Alaska, which would increase the number of moose and caribou local people depend on for food. They argue local tribes depend on the animals for food and outsiders have business regulating their state.
Opponents of the law argue its passage means “it’s only a matter of time” before hunters will be able to enter Yellowstone to kill grizzly bears and wolves inside the national park.
The Humane Society and the Sierra Club are asking all animal lovers to contact President Donald Trump and ask him not to let the cruel hunting practices become law.
What do you think about the bill letting hunters kill hibernating wolves and bears in their winter dens?
[Featured Image by Tim Boyle/Getty Images]