Reporting for this morning’s story on the great blue heron killing in Jay — which occurred last week — I was startled and dismayed to realize how common an occurrence this kind of thing is.
Wendy Hall, who operates the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge and Rehabilitation Center in Wilmington, showed me bird after bird that required care because they had been senselessly shot.
And DEC spokesman David Winchell reminded me that last summer state officials caught three different groups of young men, in Tupper Lake, Raquette Lake and Inlet, attacking loons.
In one case, according to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, boys actually attacked a loon nest with a paddle, shattering their eggs.
In all of these instances, the legal penalties are relatively slight: a maximum of 15 days in jail, and a fine totaling a few hundred dollars.
I think it’s fair to question whether those punishments are severe enough to act as a deterrent. But I also have to wonder at the parenting that leaves young men with the impression that this kind of behavior is anything less than revolting.
(Can you imagine finding out that your child had been out smashing loon eggs with a canoe paddle?)
This incident reminds of an experience I had in the woods when I was a kid. I had been hunting white tail deer all day with my father. It was cold and rainy and we hadn’t seen a single buck.
While taking a breather in a little hemlock grove, we suddenly realized that there was a big grouse sitting perfectly still a few yards away.
My father, who was frustrated and irritable, shot the bird with his hunting rifle, disintegrating it in a cloud of feathers.
I was horrified, disgusted, furious.
I’m a big supporter of hunting rights. And my own son spends a fair amount of time in the woods with his .22 plinking away at targets. But he knows like gospel that anything living is strictly off-limits.
If you don’t plan to eat it, don’t even think about shooting it.
So what do you think? Have you had experiences with this kind of thing? Do we need to send a different message to our boys? And if so, how?
As always, your comments welcome.