Washington, DC, July 2, 2019 — A major national park should do a better job of protecting its wildlife from excessive and inhumane hunting practices, according to a rulemaking petition filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The focus is Cape Cod National Seashore, a national park unit that has a legal mandate to maintain a natural balance in wildlife populations but has failed to exercise its legal obligation to do so.
Although the enabling statute for Cape Cod allows hunting, as a unit of the National Park System it is also supposed to set hunting and fishing restrictions needed to maintain sustainable predator-prey dynamics. But park officials have declined to impose any hunting restrictions inside the Seashore, meaning that persons with valid hunting licenses are free to:
- Stage killing contests for coyotes and other predators, offering prizes for killing the most and the biggest animals;
- Pursue night hunting, use of dogs, baiting wildlife, and other questionable practices; and
- Engage in trophy hunting for coyotes for nearly six months a year (October-March).
“Cape Cod National Seashore should not be operated as a game farm,” stated PEER Staff Counsel Kevin Bell, who filed the petition, noting that many parks that allow hunting adopt limits along the lines PEER is advocating. “Predator killing contests disrupt pack structures, threaten the overall health of the species, and upend healthy ecological balances.”
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The Seashore is also supposed to use the best available science to guide its management decisions. The last time Cape Cod reviewed its hunting program was a dozen years ago and then it relied upon an outdated and discredited 1975 study that it has yet to revisit. Nor has Cape Cod even surveyed predator numbers within its boundaries since 1988.
“If they were still back in school, Cape Cod’s managers would be flunking science,” added New England PEER director Kyla Bennett, a biologist and attorney formerly with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “After decades, Cape Cod has yet to conduct a systematic review of the effects on their policies on the Seashore’s wildlife.”
The PEER rulemaking petition presses Cape Cod to end carnivore hunting, including on foxes, eastern coyotes/coywolves, fishers, and future populations of black bears and bobcats, and to limit its game seasons for deer, rabbits, and game birds to one week, the length of hunting seasons when Cape Cod National Seashore was created in 1961. Under the Administrative Procedures Act, the National Park Service must respond to the petition within a reasonable time.
Joining PEER on the petition is Louise Kane, a local activist who co-drafted the Carnivore Act and obtained thousands of signatures on an online appeal to end trophy carnivore hunting within Cape Cod National Seashore.