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Hunters In The Woods Next to the Sanctuary: A Cautionary Tale

A couple of weeks ago, when our fabulous volunteers from Brandeis University were here, a couple of young female students were accosted in the woods while they were posting “No Hunting” signs. They had gotten quite a bit off the survey map boundary, and were indeed posting trees that were not on our property. The first inclination they had of this was when two hunters, with guns, politely asked them if they were hunting in the wrong place. I’m not sure how they answered, but not too much later, the owner of the property – one of our boundary neighbors who’d rented his land to the hunters – came up on the girls in a rage.

He threatened them with a lawsuit for “spiking the trees” (with poultry staples, which was the one funny thing about the whole situation, as clearly he had no idea what a true tree spike looks like), thus “ruining his chances to log the area;” he yelled and cursed at them; he screamed at them with his finger pointed inches from their faces. They were understandably terrified. Most young women are when they are threatened by strange men in the middle of the woods. Next he made his way through the woods to find Cheryl. He then launched the same unacceptable behaviors at her; she wasn’t terrified, but just about as angry as I’ve ever heard her when she called me on the phone to let me know he was on his way down to us.

All of the rest of the volunteers were having lunch in the kitchen with me and Aram when Cheryl phoned. I hung up and explained what I’d heard to the stunned group. No sooner had I done that than Aram and I headed outside, just as the neighbor pulled up.

I won’t repeat the conversation; but I will say that Aram did an excellent job of de-escalating the situation. I would have taken that thing through the roof. Usually Aram is the one being appropriately outraged in cases involving such things as hyper-sexist hunters in need of serious anger management classes, but for some reason this guy exceeded my ability to be calm when I really need to be. One’s personal feelings need to balance the safety of the animals, always, and being on decent terms with neighbors is a critical aspect of that.

Aram assured him that we would take the signs down ASAP. The neighbor thanked him and drove off. I phoned Cheryl, who told me he’d called to apologize to her (big wow). She put an orange vest on her big black Rottie, picked up a screwdriver, and headed out. She saw where the girls had gotten off course and followed a long line of signs, taking each one down. When she couldn’t see any others, she headed back and figured that was that.

A few days later, she let me know she’d been told by another hunter (who “kindly” offered to shoot any coyotes if we wanted him to) that a 10-point buck had been seen in the woods shared by several properties, including ours, which explained some of the guy’s outrage (because gee golly the status he would get if such a magnificent animal was murdered on his property). Since then, she and her partner have doubled up their usual efforts of walking and talking very loudly through the woods as often as possible and putting out deer food right next to their house where hunters won’t go.

Last Sunday, the neighbor left two signs (one on each of our cars) asking us to please call him. The subsequent conversation revealed that apparently, “No Hunting” signs were still on four of his trees, and he wanted us to take them down. We planned to meet at the bottom of our driveway the following Tuesday. When we did, Aram pulled our our survey, because we still couldn’t believe that our signs were on his trees, given that Cheryl had taken so many down. But the place where he pointed agreed with both of our maps, so we agreed to drive over to his access road and walk up to the place so he could show us the trees.

That walk through the woods with this man is still surreal in my mind. He prattled the entire way, describing where he’d logged, which of his horses he’d sold (and who he’d purchased), places where people in the past had Made Improvements, and other items of interest only to people who still believe humans have the ability to Fix The Forest. Aram kept up our collective end of the conversation, thankfully, because I knew if I opened my mouth I would say something to throw us right into a serious fight. I couldn’t even look at the guy.

All I could think of was the insanity of pretending to be civil to a person who made money in part by allowing people to murder animals on his property. Necessary insanity in this case, but still incredibly awful. I was thankful for my powers of dissociation when he launched into a one-sided conversation about the beavers who, long ago, had built a dam near the bottom of the property, right by the road. They sure aren’t there now, and haven’t been for a long time, so clearly they were either murdered or moved (same thing). I didn’t hear a thing after the word “beaver” and never asked Aram what he’d said. It’s over. I don’t want to know.

We got the signs down and parted ways, hoping that is the end of it for good. The whole thing was necessary to keep the peace and, in so doing, maximize the probability that nothing horrible would happen to the animals at the sanctuary. But oh, what a tangled web of sorrow animal abuse weaves in ways that are impossible to either anticipate or track! What nightmares of association arise when doing sanctuary work. What a general horror-show this world is.

This blog isn’t to attract sympathy for us, by any stretch of the imagination. It’s to give a reminder that in every way, anticipated and not, everywhere we go and whatever we do, we find ways that humans persist in finding ways to hurt and kill other animals. It’s pervasive; it’s grueling; and it’s non-stop. So too must our efforts be in rooting out and eradicating the destructive impulses of our fellow humans.

11 comments to Hunters In The Woods Next to the Sanctuary: A Cautionary Tale

  • CQ
    Several emails in my inbox today had to do with hunting season. One emailer, who is no friend of zoos or of hunting, suggested, with sorrow, that this beautiful elk is actually safer surrounded by a fence than he would be in his own home, the forest: http://www.ktvb.com/news/slideshows/Elk-rescues-marmot-from-drowning-at-Pocatello-Zoo-124452264.html. Why do we put animals — and ourselves — in the compromising position of settling for either security or freedom, instead of insisting that we all deserve both and that both are attainable?

    Then there was this depressing blog by James McWilliams: http://eatingplantsdotorg.wordpress.com/2011/11/28/east-texas-blues-thoughts-on-hunting-culture-and-veganism. I will be steering clear of Piney Woods.

    I would’ve kept my head down, my mouth shut, and my eyes averted, too, if I’d been in your shoes, bravebird. Kudos to Aram for his poise. Good that you and he had the strong motivation of keeping the sanctuary animals safe to remind you both from blowing up.

    For anyone who seeks inspiration from eloquent anti-hunting quotes, here’s a handful of them in http://www.CreatureQuotes.com:

    Chapter 14
    ~ Luke Dommer, p 19
    ~ Dian Fossey, p 27
    ~ Jane Goodall, pp 33-34

    Chapter 17
    ~ Irv Feldman, pp 31-34
    ~ Dino DiGiacomo, pp 47-49

    Chapter 18
    ~ Doug Kirk, pp 54-57

    Chapter 19
    ~ Ellen DeGeneris, p 5
    ~ Matthew Scully, pp 53-59 (esp. p 55)
    ~ Butterflies Katz, pp 25-31

    Chapter 23
    ~ Len Crisfield, pp 3-4 (poem)

    Chapter 24
    ~ Thomas Eveland, pp 32-32
    ~ Roy Dallas Gragg, pp 42-47

    Chapter 25
    ~ Laura Nirenberg, pp 45-47

  • Anita
    Living in a town that has a law that says I cannot have any plan that will attract insects, all I can say is we are engineering our own demise.
  • Some great lines in your post.

    1. “One’s personal feelings need to balance the safety of the animals, always,…”

    2. “…items of interest only to people who still believe humans have the ability to Fix The Forest.”

    3. “…the insanity of pretending to be civil to a person who made money in part by allowing people to murder animals on his property. Necessary insanity in this case, but still incredibly awful.”

    4. “What nightmares of association arise when doing sanctuary work. What a general horror-show this world is.”

    5. “…everywhere we go and whatever we do, we find ways that humans persist in finding ways to hurt and kill other animals. It’s pervasive; it’s grueling; and it’s non-stop.”

    Thank you for your writing…and for your efforts.

  • Sandy
    that’s the same approach i try to take when people in the street start throwing harsh, cruel words my way when feeding the birds. not always easy, especially when they have so much hatred in their hearts. thank you for protecting our beautiful animals with your silence. :)
  • bravebird
    Very true — we set up a false dichotomy of safety versus freedom and force everyone to choose — including ourselves. Mostly, I think security, as we define it, is a false notion, and that right there has led us down a bazillion horrible roads.
  • bravebird
    Engineering our own demise for SURE — amazing that most people cannot see this.
  • bravebird
    Veganelder, thank you for your kindness, as well as everything YOU do.
  • bravebird
    Hate in their hearts is right — amazing the vitriol people fling at others who are doing things like FEEDING BIRDS. Wow.
  • I know it’s not easy holding your thoughts to keep the peace. But necessary – As are those frequent, extra-loud walks through the woods… May all be safe.
  • bird brain
    I’ve deescalated a situation at a local parade with my donkeys. We, the three asses and the handlers and me where in front of someone that had a float that was shooting off pretend guns. The donks did not freak but were clearly unhappy. I sent someone back to quiet the float folks. Well, men, they go into it. Donks got upset, they usually LOVE parades and all the people. Sunny ended up getting diarrhea and was all I could do to hold him. He got close to a woman with shorts on and runny poop splashed on her leg. NOT the impression I wanted to leave. Anyway, at the end of the parade the bang bang folks came by and the men started to get into it. I opened my big mouth and took all the blame and partially diffused the immediate tension. ME, I don’t care what people think of me. I just wanted peace and to have my donks enjoy the day away from their boring home.
  • bravebird
    Anyone who makes loud noises around any animal whatsoever — well, I have nothing good to say about it. One of several reasons I loathe July 4th “celebrations” as well as all gun, firework, and other explosive noises — both “domestic” and wild animals cower in fright when that shit happens and for what?

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