A new kind of ‘feral game’

September 25, 2013 09:53 am
Some age with grace. Unfortunately, some become cynical, suspicious and generally unpleasant company. The latter may be symptomatic in the following discussion:

From the perspective of 70-plus years, it appears as though seniors have now been designated as a game species. Evidently the population of elder citizens in the country has increased sufficiently so that a limited open hunting season may be declared.

I arrive at this conclusion based on various media interpretations of the nearly 2,000-page “Affordable Health Care for America Act” and its accompanying impacts on various portions of Medicare. This is the same legislation about which Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi famously said, “But we have to pass the (health care) bill so that you can find out what’s in it.”

Wildlife biologists, when making a determination of whether to consider listing a species as a game animal, first inventory the population. They decide whether numbers are increasing or declining and how well the habitat supports that particular critter. Based on these observations, they make recommendations to various state and federal agencies. Those animals, birds or fish that have a thriving population and which are attractive as game species may be recommended as harvestable to varying degrees.

Alternatively, since 1973, with the Endangered Species Act, some animals, birds, invertebrates and plants that have declining populations have been listed as “threatened or endangered” and are protected by either or both federal and state laws: they cannot be hunted/harvested or, in some instances, even molested. Such is the case with the bald eagle, red-cockaded woodpecker, spotted owl and nearly 1,500 other species. In Georgia, the eastern diamondback rattlesnake is proposed for this classification.

The list is fluid: changing as populations recover. The grey wolf is an example. It was considered “endangered” by the federal government but now is slated to be delisted and authority to manage the animal will transfer to the individual states. Some states will likely decide a limited harvest is appropriate.

At the other end of the spectrum is the animal considered “feral game.” This unfortunate species is designated as a noxious weed in the wildflower garden and is protected by no season and no bag limit. You can shoot at all you can find — anytime. An example is the wild pig. Nobody — from Georgia to Texas — wants it. It’s just in the way and needs to be eradicated.

Now consider senior citizens: our population has increased to the extent that we’re no longer “threatened or endangered.” Perhaps it’s time for the “old folks” species to be considered fair game. Hopefully, at least initially, we’ll be partially protected by a short hunting season (perhaps to coincide with the firearms season for deer and elk here in Northeast Oregon) and a bag limit of one per year. And it’ll be illegal to hunt over baited areas such as Denny’s during the over-65 lunch special hour. However, there is the pressing danger that, when we become oxygen dependent or wheelchair confined, we’ll be listed as “feral game” and seasons will be open year-round with no bag limits, and any restaurant offering discounts to seniors will be considered a sporting area.

Of course the above is mere foolishness — but it does offer a cynical, suspicious and unpleasant view, from one senior’s perspective, of a few ramifications of that fine act passed by Congress in 2010: the act, now law, also known as “Obamacare.”


My Voice

Walter Stephens, 73, of Union is a retired farmer. My Voice columns should be 500 to 700 words. Submissions should include a portrait-type photograph of the author. Authors also should include their full name, age, occupation and relevant organizational memberships. 

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