Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Assemblyman Brian Dahle and Wildlife: He knows not what he does....

Brian Dahle is the new Assemblyman from California's northeast mountain District 1---a huge amount of area that is larger than many States. It is a sparsely populated region that has some of the best wilderness left in California. Achingly beautiful, the district boasts the first two mountains of the Cascade volcanic mountain chain: Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen. Mount Lassen is a National Park; Mount Shasta should be.

I first heard of the guy when I was researching his run for the State Assembly about a year ago. I am a political geek. As such I joined his Facebook page where I first saw photos of the famous Adin Supply Store Coyote Slaughter. During this event, the little town of Adin has a dinner: Brian Dahle was there campaigning for votes. That Facebook visit eventually led to a petition drive by about a million California environmentalists to stop the coyote slaughter and it also brought a certain amount of unpleasant scrutiny to Brian Dahle, who has been an enthusiastic participant in the coyote hunts in the past.

I went to Adin to cover the 2013 Coyote Drive for the Chico News and Review. While there I wrote the following about Brian Dahle and my attempts to meet with him regarding the hunt:

The new Assemblyman from the mountain District One (and my Assemblyman) is Brian Dahle. He owns a ranch not too far from Adin.  I contacted his chief of staff, Joshua Cook, who promised me I would be able to talk to Brian about the hunt. I also sent Joshua Cook an e-mail, which Joshua Cook told me he had already responded to. When I checked my e-mail, there was no e-mail from Joshua. He didn’t answer my repeated calls to his cell phone. Cold shoulder anyone?

Brian Dahle did admit to Bruce Ross of the Redding Searchlight that he has participated in prior coyote drives. One local person, who doesn’t want to be identified (a problem I ran into a whole lot in Adin), said that Brian Dahle goes to all the coyote events. I’ve seen pictures of him participating in last year’s coyote dinner.
I had hoped to meet with Brian Dahle at his ranch. I wanted to hear his side of the argument. I wanted to hear him say that coyote hunting is an effective way to manage predators. I wanted to hear him respond to the studies that indicate there are other, and better, ways to manage predation of calves and lambs.

I can understand Mr. Dahle’s hesitation. He sits on the Assembly’s Wildlife Committee. Participating in politically unpopular coyote hunts is not good for an Assemblyman’s career. In California, home of free range, organic, non GMO certified Chickens, the last thing a politician wants to admit is that he participates in coyote killing contests.

When it comes to Assemblymen, silence speaks volumes.

After the hunt, I finally received an e-mail from Brian Dahle, through his Chief of Staff, Joshua Cook. Of course, I received this e-mail after what Dahle thought was my deadline for the story. Here is the e-mail:


Apologies for the delay. Answers to your questions included below.



1. Does Brian Dahle support coyote hunts such as the one in Adin?
The contest aspect of the coyote drive is a distraction from the basic question of how ranchers, farmers and rural landowners can use accepted practices to manage predation. Landowners have a responsibility to respect the value of wildlife. If the coyote drive weakens that responsibility, it will not continue.
 2. Will Brian Dahle attend this year's hunt?
No, Brian will not participate in the coyote drive.
3. Has Brian allowed hunting of coyotes on his land in the past? Will he allow hunters this year?
Brian did not receive any requests for permission this year. He has taken coyotes on his property in the past.
4. Is Brian in favor of a ban on coyote killing contests?
(See Question 1)
5. Is Brian in favor of applying science and modernizing the management of coyote/predator/non-game species?
The Department of Fish and Wildlife has a mandate to make decisions based on sound science, and I fully support that. In many rural and semirural areas, we need to find a balance that respects the importance of agriculture. Conservation and agriculture are often seen as competing interests, but that’s not always true. My wheat fields support a huge number of migrating waterfowl along the Pacific flyway, and farmers and ranchers play an important role in conserving wildlife and natural resources. 
 6.  How does Brian feel about the current coyote and bobcat policy--that it is okay to kill a coyote at any time of the year, without limit---as long as there is no  local ordinance against it.
The USDA National Ag Statistics Service attributes 72% of predation losses to coyotes, and estimates those losses would be two or three times greater without predator management practices. Data from the USDA NASS, California Department of Fish & Wildlife, and UC IPM make it clear that coyotes are not endangered, and their numbers have increased substantially in recent years. That is a fact. According to the Humane Society of the United States, “It is nearly impossible to completely eradicate coyotes from an area. Despite bounties and large-scale efforts to kill coyotes over the last 100 years, coyotes have in fact expanded their range throughout the U.S. tremendously. One study even found that killing 75 percent of a coyote population every year for 50 years would still not exterminate the population.”
The final copy that got published was relatively kind to Brian Dahle. He got one unchallenged paragraph from me:
"First District Assemblyman Brian Dahle, who has participated in the hunt in the past and owns a ranch close to Adin, told me by email: “The USDA National Ag Statistics Service attributes 72% of predation losses to coyotes, and estimates those losses would be two or three times greater without predator management practices.” By predator management practices, he means hunting.'
Poor Dahle, he already had a crises about his treatment of wildlife just one month into his term. The past few months, Brian Dahle, because he sits on the State's Wildlife committee, has had an opportunity to weigh in on two other issues that effect wildlife.

In the last month, the Assembly's Wildlife Committee has taken up the question of commercial Bobcat trapping. There have been no good studies done on the actual amount of Bobcat that we have left in California. Bobcat pelts have become increasingly expensive, leading to a trapping boom. I've read that some Bobcat furs are selling for $1,500. Despite the high dollar amounts for the pelts, the numbers taken by commercial Bobcat trappers have been poor. Some feel that this might mean that the Bobcat is becoming threatened as a species in California. Either way, we have  no good studies to indicate how many are left.
And so the valiant organization: Project Bobcat stepped in with legislation sponsored by a concerned Assemblyman. The legislation certainly isn't radical: it just calls for a moratorium on Bobcat trapping around Joshua Tree National Park and for science to be done as to ascertain real Bobcat numbers in California. If a management plan is not developed, then a moratorium on Bobcat trapping would take effect in 2015. The bill would move the Bobcat from "vermin" non-game animal status to Furbearing status.
Brian Dahle voted against the Bobcat moratorium. His office didn't write me to justify why he voted against it. He didn't write my spouse either. In the e-mail he wrote to me earlier this year, Dahle indicated that he felt science should be part of managing wildlife. Since there has been no good science on the Bobcat population since the 70's, one would think Dahle would back the bill. He didn't.

And today, May 7, Assemblyman Brian Dahle announced that he would vote against a lead ammunition ban. He announced that a lead ammunition ban would lead to the new ammo being called "armor piercing" which is outlawed by Federal regulations. Dahle went on to state that this would lead to a hunting ban in California. He announced his position prior to the hearings on the topic.
We all know the dangers of lead poisoning. Using lead bullets and buckshot leads to the lead poisoning in everything that eats an animal that was killed by the buckshot. It has been well studied and can't be argued. Using lead bullets kills wildlife. And there are alternatives that are safe.

The most famous mortalities from lead ammunition have been the imperiled California Condor. At least 26 condors have been killed by lead poisoning over the last twenty years. It is the leading killer of Callifornia condors. Safe, effective and reliable alternatives to lead ammunition are already sold in all fifty states. A lead ammunition ban would be easy to do, wouldn't cost much and the benefits are substantiated by science.
But no, Brian Dahle feels that this is an attack on hunting (just an appeal to rural votes). And, once again, despite his desire to rely upon "science", he relies on a hunter persecutor complex to validate his position.

 But here is the real sad part: Brian Dahle does not help his District by taking these anti-science stands against wildlife. Why? Tourism is much more important to the First District than hunting. The percentage of hunters in California is falling faster than George Bush's poll standings after attacking Iraq. Tourism is where the money is and the First District has some of the best unspoiled views and vistas left in the US. It is an undiscovered treasure where people carrying cameras will spend much more money than people carrying guns.


  1. Great post, as usual. Down here in SoCal (N. San Diego County) I feel privileged to have coyotes in our neighborhood, and we even get the occasional bobcat (I have a nice pic of one lounging in my patio.) There is periodic hysteria when a cat or small dog gets snatched, but not too often. Mostly moms, worried about their toddlers. Which raises the obvious question, why are you letting your toddler run around the back yard unsupervised, lady? But people will be people, I guess.

  2. Thanks for the note BP. Would love to see the photo of the Bobcat. And I love your idea about the coyotes. I'm with you: why would a toddler be in the backyard without supervision? Only two human deaths from coyotes: one in 83 (a 3 year old in LA vicinity); and a late 20something female in Novia Scotia that was taken down by a pack (very unusual). Thanks for reading BP. You still doing the Paleo diet?

  3. Thanks, I'll email you the photo. Don't puncture my bubble and tell me it's really a housecat.

    Coyotes are all good. It's really something, that we have wild dogs available to us to appreciate. Something that most people in the world would have to travel to Africa to experience.

    Yeah, I'm still paleo, for over a year now; it's done me a world of good, lost 20 lbs of visceral & ab fat w/ no effort, & significantly improved my blood lipids. Does take a little getting used to, completely dumping grains & sugar & all, but I like it. I think my mind has stabilized a bit, also. Or maybe that's just growing older!


  4. Hi Bill,

    Great photos of the bobcat. And I laughed at the possum poster. Thanks!


  5. I'm sorry but white ppl are the only race I know that Go out and kill random bobcats and coyotes just for the heck of hunting. Go hunt deer you punk, leave innocent bobcats and other animals alone. Deer and pigs are meant to be eaten, it sadens me so many cats and coyotes lost their lives by stupid people.