Earth Is Not in the Midst of a Sixth Mass Extinction…[Yet]

NASA / REUTERS
At the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America, Smithsonian paleontologist Doug Erwin took the podium to address a ballroom full of geologists on the dynamics of mass extinctions and power grid failures—which, he claimed, unfold in the same way.

“These are images from the NOAA website of the US blackout in 2003,” he said, pulling up a nighttime satellite picture of the glowing northeastern megalopolis, megawatts afire under the cold dark of space. “This is 20 hours before the blackout. You can see Long Island and New York City.”

Erwin is one of the world’s experts on the End-Permian mass extinction, an unthinkable volcanic nightmare that nearly ended life on earth 252 million years ago. He proposed that earth’s great mass extinctions might unfold like these power grid failures: most of the losses may come, not from the initial shock—software glitches in the case of power grid failures, and asteroids and volcanoes in the case of ancient mass extinctions—but from the secondary cascade of failures that follow. These are devastating chain reactions that no one understands. Erwin thinks that most mass extinctions in earth’s history—global die-offs that killed the majority of animal life on earth—ultimately resulted, not from external shocks, but from the internal dynamics of food webs that faltered and failed catastrophically in unexpected ways, just as the darkening eastern seaboard did in 2003.

I had written to Erwin to get his take on the contemporary idea that there is currently a sixth mass extinction under way on our planet on par with the so-called Big Five mass extinctions in the history of animal life. Many popular science articles take this as a given, and indeed, there’s something emotionally satisfying about the idea that humans’ hubris and shortsightedness are so profound that we’re bringing down the whole planet with us.Given how severely humans have damaged the natural world over the millennia, it was an idea I found attractive, and it’s one even shared by many geologists and paleontologists. Our destruction is so familiar—so synonymous with civilization—in fact, that we tend to overlook how strange the world that we’ve made has become. For instance, it stands to reason that, until very recently, all vertebrate life on the planet was wildlife. But astoundingly, today wildlife accounts for only 3 percent of earth’s land animals; human beings, our livestock, and our pets take up the remaining 97 percent of the biomass. This Frankenstein biosphere is due both to the explosion of industrial agriculture and to a hollowing out of wildlife itself, which has decreased in abundance by as much as 50 percent since 1970. This cull is from both direct hunting and global-scale habitat destruction: almost half of the earth’s land has been converted to farmland.

The oceans have endured a similar transformation in only the past few decades as the industrial might developed during World War II has been trained on the seas. Each year fishing trawlers plow an area of seafloor twice the size of the continental United States, obliterating the benthos. Gardens of corals and sponges hosting colorful sea life are reduced to furrowed, lifeless plains. What these trawlers have to show for all this destruction is the removal of up to 90 percent of all large ocean predators since 1950, including familiar staples of the dinner plate like cod, halibut, grouper, tuna, swordfish, marlin, and sharks. As just one slice of that devastation, 270,000 sharks are killed every single day, mostly for their tasteless fins, which end up as status symbol garnishes in the bowls of Chinese corporate power lunches. And today, even as fishing pressure is escalating, even as the number of fishing boats increases, even as industrial trawlers abandon their exhausted traditional fishing grounds to chase down ever more remote fish stocks with ever more sophisticated fish-finding technology, global fish catch is flatlining.

So things don’t look so good, no matter where we look. Yes, the victims in the animal world include scary apex predators that pose obvious threats to humans, like lions, whose numbers have dropped from 1 million at the time of Jesus to 450,000 in the 1940s to 20,000 today—a decline of 98 percent. But also included have been unexpected victims, like butterflies and moths, which have declined in abundance by 35 percent since the 1970s.Like all extinction events, so far this one has been phased and complex, spanning tens of thousands of years and starting when our kind left Africa. Other mass extinctions buried deep in earth’s history have similarly played out over tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of years. To future geologists, then, the huge wave of extinctions a few thousand years ago as First Peoples spread out into new continents and remote archipelagoes will be all but indistinguishable from the current wave of destruction loosed by modernity and its growing appetites. Surely we’ve earned our place in the pantheon next to the greatest ecological catastrophes of all time: the so-called Big Five mass extinctions of earth history. Surely our Anthropocene extinction can confidently take its place next to the juggernauts of deep time—the Ordovician, Devonian, Permian, Triassic and Cretaceous extinctions.

Erwin says no. He thinks it’s junk science.

“Many of those making facile comparisons between the current situation and past mass extinctions don’t have a clue about the difference in the nature of the data, much less how truly awful the mass extinctions recorded in the marine fossil record actually were,” he wrote me in an email. “It is absolutely critical to recognize that I am NOT claiming that humans haven’t done great damage to marine and terrestrial [ecosystems], nor that many extinctions have not occurred and more will certainly occur in the near future. But I do think that as scientists we have a responsibility to be accurate about such comparisons.”

I had a chance to sit down with Erwin after his talk at the annual geology conference. My first question—about a rumor I had heard from one of his colleagues that Erwin had served as a sort of mass extinction consultant to Cormac McCarthy while the notoriously secretive author was constructing the post-apocalyptic world of The Road—Erwin coyly evaded. But on the speculative sixth mass extinction, he was more forthcoming.

If his power-grid analogy is correct, then trying to stop a mass extinction after it’s started would be a little like calling for a building’s preservation while it’s imploding.“People who claim we’re in the sixth mass extinction don’t understand enough about mass extinctions to understand the logical flaw in their argument,” he said. “To a certain extent they’re claiming it as a way of frightening people into action, when in fact, if it’s actually true we’re in a sixth mass extinction, then there’s no point in conservation biology.”

This is because by the time a mass extinction starts, the world would already be over.

“So if we really are in the middle of a mass extinction,” I started, “it wouldn’t be a matter of saving tigers and elephants—”

“Right, you probably have to worry about saving coyotes and rats.

“It’s a network collapse problem,” he said. “Just like power grids. Network dynamics research has been getting a ton of money from DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency]. They’re all physicists studying it, who don’t care about power grids or ecosystems, they care about math. So the secret about power grids is that nobody actually knows how they work. And it’s exactly the same problem you have in ecosystems.

“I think that if we keep things up long enough, we’ll get to a mass extinction, but we’re not in a mass extinction yet, and I think that’s an optimistic discovery because that means we actually have time to avoid Armageddon,” he said.

Erwin’s other point, that the magnitude of the Big Five mass extinctions in earth’s past dwarfs humanity’s destruction thus far, is a subtle one. He’s not trying to downplay the tremendous destruction wrought by humans, but reminding us that claims about mass extinctions are inevitably claims about paleontology and the fossil record.

“So there are estimates of what the standing crop of passenger pigeons was in the 19th century,” said Erwin. “It’s like 5 billion. They would black out the sky.”

Passenger pigeons all but serve as the mascot of the “sixth mass extinction,” their extirpation an ecological tragedy on a massive scale, and proof that humans are a geologically destructive force to be reckoned with.

“So then you ask: in a non-archaeological context, how many fossil passenger pigeons are there? How many records are there of fossil passenger pigeons?”

“Not many?” I offered.
 “Two,” he said.
“So here’s an incredibly abundant bird that we wiped out. But if you look in the fossil record, you wouldn’t even know that they were there.”

Erwin likes to recall a talk he once went to by an ecologist who had documented the troubling losses he had seen over his career in high-altitude rainforests.

The fossil record is incredibly incomplete. One rough estimate holds that we’ve only ever found a tantalizing 0.01 percent of all the species that have ever existed. Most of the animals in the fossil record are marine invertebrates, like brachiopods and bivalves, of the sort that are both geologically widespread and durably skeletonized. In fact, though this book (for narrative purposes) has mostly focused on the charismatic animals taken out by mass extinctions, the only reason we know about mass extinctions in the first place is from the record of this incredibly abundant, durable, and diverse world of marine invertebrates, not the big, charismatic, and rare stuff like dinosaurs.

“So you can ask, ‘Okay, well, how many geographically widespread, abundant, durably skeletonized marine taxa have gone extinct thus far?’ And the answer is, pretty close to zero,” Erwin pointed out. In fact, of the best-assessed groups of modern animals—like stony corals, amphibians, birds and mammals—somewhere between 0 and 1 percent of species have gone extinct in recent human history. By comparison, the hellscape of End-Permian mass extinction claimed upwards of 90 percent of all species on earth.

When mass extinctions hit, they don’t just take out big charismatic megafauna, like elephants, or niche ecosystems, like cloud forests. They take out hardy and ubiquitous organisms as well—things like clams and plants and insects. This is incredibly hard to do. But once you go over the edge and flip into mass extinction mode, nothing is safe. Mass extinctions kill almost everything on the planet.

While Erwin’s argument that a mass extinction is not yet under way might seem to get humanity off the hook—an invitation to plunder the earth further, since it can seemingly take the beating (the planet has certainly seen worse)—it’s actually a subtler and possibly far scarier argument.

This is where the ecosystem’s nonlinear responses, or tipping points, come in. Inching up to mass extinction might be a little like inching up to the event horizon of a black hole—once you go over a certain line, a line that perhaps doesn’t even appear all that remarkable, all is lost.

“So,” I said, “it might be that we sort of bump along where everything seems okay and then . . .”

“Yeah, everything’s fine until it’s not,” said Erwin. “And then everything goes to hell.”

Or put another way, mass extinctions may unfold the same way that a dissolute character in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises explains that bankruptcies do: “Two ways. Gradually and then suddenly.”

“The only hope we have in the future,” Erwin said, “is if we’re not in a mass extinction event.”


This article has been adapted from Peter Brannen’s new book, The Ends of the World.

Nearly every species of lemur at risk of extinction with hunting for restaurant food and habitat loss blamed

https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/lemurs-extinction-madagascar-eat-primates-food-habitat-endangered-a8475291.html

Madagascan animal is world’s most endangered primate

Nearly every species of lemur is under threat, including the fat-tailed dwarf lemur

Nearly every species of lemur is under threat, including the fat-tailed dwarf lemur ( Alamy )

Almost every species of lemur is at risk of extinction, making it the world’s most endangered primate, scientists have warned.

The destruction of their tropical forest habitat in Madagascar, caused by illegal tree logging, charcoal production and mining, is the chief cause.

But the round-eyed primates are also being increasingly hunted by humans for restaurant food.

And some are captured for the pet trade.

More than 100 types of lemur – 95 per cent of all known the species and subspecies – are likely to be critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable to extinction in the wild, the conservationists believe.

Dozens of experts in primate conservation from around the world have reviewed the conservation status of the 111 species and subspecies of lemurs, all native to Madagascar, and provide updated assessments for the IUCN Red List of extinctions.

Russ Mittermeier, from the charity Global Wildlife Conservation, said the group’s findings highlighted “the very high extinction risk to Madagascar’s unique lemurs” and was “indicative of the grave threats to Madagascar biodiversity as a whole”.

“This is, without a doubt, the highest percentage of threat for any large group of mammals and for any large group of vertebrates,” he said.

Professor Christoph Schwitzer from Bristol Zoological Society and deputy chairman of the Primate Specialist Group, told the BBC: “More and more, we are seeing unsustainable levels of lemur poaching.

“We see commercial hunting as well – probably for local restaurants. And this is a new phenomenon for Madagascar – we didn’t see it at this scale 15 years ago.”

The findings will go through a peer review process before the Red List is officially updated to reflect them.

The IUCN already has a “lemur action plan” to save the animals, which includes protecting habitats where the most threatened species live and tackling poverty through ecotourism schemes to help local people to avoid hunting the animals.

Idaho moves ahead with possible grizzly bear hunting season

https://idahobusinessreview.com/2018/03/24/idaho-moves-ahead-with-possible-grizzly-bear-hunting-season/

Idaho officials have started the process of opening a grizzly bear hunting season this fall that would allow the killing of one male grizzly.

The Fish and Game Commission in a 7-0 vote March 22 directed the Department of Fish and Game to gather public comments on the possible hunt.

The department will use those comments to draft a possible grizzly bear hunting season for the commission to consider in May.

“There would be a lot of interest in the possibility of a grizzly season,” Commissioner Derick Attebury said after the meeting. Attebury represents the portion of eastern Idaho where the hunt would occur.

The process for making comments and possible public meetings haven’t been announced.

About 700 grizzlies live in Yellowstone National Park and surrounding areas in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. Montana doesn’t plan to hunt grizzlies this year, while a proposal in Wyoming would allow the killing of up to 24.

Wildlife advocates and Native Americans have filed lawsuits to restore Endangered Species Act protections for the bears and prevent the hunts.

“It’s disappointing that another state is moving in the direction of hunting grizzly bears,” said Andrea Santarsiere, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. The group is a plaintiff in one of several lawsuits seeking to restore protections for Yellowstone grizzlies.

The formula for the number of bears that can be hunted in each state involves a region surrounding Yellowstone National Park called the Demographic Monitoring Area. The number of bears for each state is based on how much land area is in the monitoring area. The number of bears allowed to be hunted in total is based on mortality studies of bears. The end result is that this year, officials say, Idaho can hunt one male bear and Montana six male bears. Wyoming can hunt 10 male bears and two female bears.

A much larger region includes additional bears not within the monitoring area. Wyoming’s proposal allows the killing of 12 bears in that additional area.

Toby Boudreau, Idaho Fish and Game assistant wildlife chief, said Idaho wasn’t looking at hunting in that area this year.

Santarsiere questioned Idaho’s ability to hunt one male bear with no females allowed, noting hunters could mistakenly kill a female.

Boudreau said most hunters would be inclined to hunt male bears. He said any inadvertent killing of a female would be subtracted from the following year’s hunt allotted to the three states. Boudreau said the killing of multiple female bears could possibly shut down hunting seasons.

“Whatever your feeling about grizzly bears,” Boudreau said, “this is one of the West’s greatest conservation stories. It’s a pretty small timeline that we’ve actively managed grizzly bears to a point where (hunting) is even a possibility.”

If hunting seasons occur in Idaho and Wyoming this fall, they would be the first since grizzlies received federal protections under the Endangered Species Act in 1975. Federal officials lifted those protections last year.

Teen injured in Vineland hunting shooting accident, police said

Vineland

Vineland police

VINELAND — A teen was accidentally shot while hunting near the border of Vineland and Buena Vista Township Saturday with two friends, authorities said.

A group of teenagers were hunting waterfowl around 6 p.m. when an 18-year-old boy was struck in the arm with birdshot and taken to Cooper University Hospital in Camden with non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

New Jersey State Police told The Press of Atlantic City they first responded to the scene and then handed over the case to Vineland police.

The 18-year-old was struck with birdshot from a gun that was being used by one of his friends, who were both minors. Police are not releasing the names of the victim or his friends at this time.

Lt. Steve Triantos said the shooting appeared to be from an accidental discharge and Vineland Police are continuing to investigate, including sending the shotgun to a police lab.

Although the area contains some rural and wooded areas, Triantos said hunting accidents like this are not common.

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Bald eagles suffering from lead poisoning

http://www.goerie.com/news/20170818/bald-eagles-suffering-from-lead-poisoning

Tamarack Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center near Saegertown has admitted four eagles with high lead toxicity levels in recent weeks. Three have died.

SAEGERTOWN — Bald eagles in Pennsylvania are protected from hunters but not from the lead in hunting ammunition.

Tamarack Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center near Saegertown typically treats two or three eagles each year for lead poisoning. But in recent weeks, the center has admitted four adult bald eagles, two of which still had the metal in their stomachs. As of Thursday, only one of the birds was alive and was in “guarded” condition.

“We’re doing our best but it is difficult for birds to come back from lead toxicity levels this high,” said Carol Holmgren, Tamarack executive director and wildlife rehabilitator.

Since 2009, the nonprofit in Crawford County has admitted 71 bald eagles. Twenty-five tested positive for lead poisoning and four, not counting the bird now being treated, have survived, Holmgren said.

The most recent lead-poisoning patient to arrive was a 30-year-old bald eagle, assumed to be male, and nicknamed “Kiski” for the township in Armstrong County where it was found Sunday. The bird was taken to Tamarack on Monday.

Holmgren said the center has a special machine to test blood lead levels and this bird’s results were higher than the machine can read. She knows it’s a long shot to treat bald eagles with such high lead toxicity but Tamarack still tries.

“Morally, ethically, it’s worth it,” Holmgren said.

Treatment involves the administration of drugs, which can require a team of four people, including a main eagle handler, Holmgren said.

She said it’s “gut-wrenching” to see these beautiful birds “deathly ill in a very unpleasant way.” The lead harms their internal organs, she said.

Although no longer listed as endangered at the federal level, bald eagles are considered protected in Pennsylvania and can’t be hunted here.

In 1980, the commonwealth had a known nesting population of only three pairs of bald eagles, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Fueled by a reintroduction program in the 1980s, the nesting eagles had increased to more than 270 pairs in 2013, according to the Game Commission.

Bands on Kiski show the bird’s age and that it was banded in Dauphin County. It’s believed the bird was brought to Pennsylvania from Saskatchewan as part of the reintroduction effort. The eagle has already survived being hit by a car, for which it was treated in 2012, Holmgren said.

The Game Commission cited the pesticide DDT and its effect on bald eagle reproduction as the primary reason the birds had declined. DDT use was banned in the United States in 1972.

While it’s good that the bald eagle population is rebounding, more birds also means more eagles suffering from lead poisoning, Holmgren said.

She doesn’t blame hunters, some of whom she said are wonderful conservationists.

“I think respectful education is what’s key,” Holmgren said about finding a solution to the lead problem.

She said the most obvious is to use non-lead ammunition. When that’s not possible, she said, it’s important to dispose of mammals killed with lead bullets or pellets in such a way that eagles and other predators and scavengers can’t find and eat remains that contain lead fragments.

Research indicates that the birds are ingesting the lead found in them, Holmgren said. Bald eagles are foragers that will scavenge mammal carcasses, according to the Game Commission. Holmgren said the birds could be eating the remains of deer, woodchucks and other mammals that have been killed with lead ammunition. The eagles could also be eating ducks that have swallowed lead sinkers or been killed with lead pellets.

“It’s lead they have digested that’s really hitting these birds hard,” Holmgren said.

Maine Season for Bobcat Hunting Starting as Deer Hunt Ends

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/maine/articles/2017-12-02/maine-season-for-bobcat-hunting-starting-as-deer-hunt-ends

Maine’s annual season for hunting wild cats is under way as the state transitions into its winter hunting seasons.

Dec. 2, 2017, at 8:18 a.m. 

Maine Season for Bobcat Hunting Starting as Deer Hunt Ends

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine‘s annual season for hunting wild cats is under way as the state transitions into its winter hunting seasons.

The bobcat hunt began on Friday and runs until Feb. 21. The elusive cats live all over Maine, and a handful of hunting guides specialize in pursuing them.

There is no bag or possession limit for bobcats. Other winter hunting seasons include snowshoe hare, fox and coyote.

The season for hunting deer with muzzleloaders and archery is still under way in limited parts of the state. It runs until Dec. 9.

Mass Shootings and Domestic Violence and Violence toward Animals

*https://www.nationofchange.org/2017/11/10/mass-shootings-domestic-violence/*
<https://www.nationofchange.org/2017/11/10/mass-shootings-domestic-violence/>

j

*Violence begets more violence!*

We are largely an ethically/morally corrupt and socially backward society,
that is sleep-walking and in denial of what is right in front of our eyes! *WE
GLORIFY KILLING!* *WE JUSTIFY WAR* – and the destruction of millions of
innocent lives, in hypocritical defiance of the very religions we espouse
and say we practice! And our children are exposed to such violence from the
time they open their eyes.

Then there’s the *desensitizing *”past-time” of* SOCIALLY SANCTIONED
HUNTING*; more than *100 million animals/wildlife** are reported killed by
hunters each year; *that number does not include the millions of animals
for which kill figures are not maintained by state wildlife agencies; and,
more *than 2-3 million healthy/treatable/adoptable companion animals are
destroyed in “shelters” each year *simply because they have been abandoned
and are homeless.

*Harvesting, culling, killing, euthanizing – call it what you will – *

*we have said *

*· that it is OK to take the lives of non-human, cognitively aware
animals – to slaughter living, breathing, sentient beings, for our own
diversion, for narcissistic, self-aggrandising “sport”; to destroy “pests”
or eliminate “inconvenient” over-populations. *

*· that it is OK to exploit and take these lives for our own
amusement, convenience or to express grievances (animal cruelty still not
taken seriously in courts; animal welfare laws do not in most cases include
farm animals); *

*· that it is OK to kill and butcher billions of sentient creatures
for personal gain and profit, whether for the dinner plate, frivolous
apparel, fraudulent research, entertainment, or any other self-indulgent
reason we can think of. *

*Many studies have shown that there is a correlation between violence
toward animals, often beginning in childhood, and violence toward people,
but we still do little to deal with it. We’re too busy justifying and
glorifying it! What a sorry lot of unevolved “deplorables”, indeed!

 

“Until we have the courage to recognize cruelty for what it is, and do
something about it – whether the victim is human or animal – we cannot
expect things to be much better in this world…We cannot have peace among
men whose hearts delight in killing any living creature. By every act that
glorifies or even tolerates such moronic delight in killing we set back the
progress of humanity.”
*~Rachel Carson*

Peter’s Humor – Fall 2017

Article posted by C.A.S.H. Committee To Abolish Sport Hunting

CLICK HERE for more from CASH COURIER NEWSLETTER, Fall 2017

From Peter Muller, Vice-President, C.A.S.H.

A hunter is introduced to his first thermos-bottle. He is very curious about it and asks the sales clerk what it does. The sales clerk says it’s a wonderful invention which keeps cold food cold and hot food hot. The hunter is very impressed and buys one.

On his next hunting-trip he tells his friends, “Just wait till you see what I got for lunch.” His friends’ curiosity is piqued and they press him to tell what it is that he brought with him. But he persists in not telling them.

Finally, it’s lunch time. With great ceremony, he pulls out his thermos bottle and proudly proclaims, “How would you like some hot soup and ice-cream?”

——-

A guy is telling some hunting jokes to his friends. Finally one of them interrupts him saying, “Please be aware that I am and have been a hunter for years.”

The guy hesitates and says, “Sorry, should I start over and talk very, very slowly?”

——-

A duck hunter bought a bird dog and discovered that the dog could actually walk on water. Shocked by his find, he was sure none of his friends would ever believe him, so he decided to take them all hunting with his new dog.

After a full day of not being able to kill any ducks, the host hunter decided to throw some floating balls into the pond to show his friends what would have happened had they killed any ducks. He urged them all to watch. Each time the hunter threw a ball, the dog calmly walked across the water and retrieved the balls while only getting his paws wet.

Finally, out of disappointment and boredom, the invited hunters decided to leave. The hunter who hosted their outing was surprised that no one had commented on his amazing new dog. Instead they sat stone-faced. This continued all the way back home.

Finally, the duck hunter couldn’t control himself any longer and asked his friends, “Did you notice anything unusual about my new dog?”

“I sure did,” responded the most pessimistic of the bunch. “He can’t swim.”

laughing animals

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CLICK HERE for more from CASH COURIER NEWSLETTER, Fall 2017

Hurricane, wildfire victims may apply for state hunting license refunds

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is issuing hunting license fee refunds and preference point restoration exceptions for hunters who had their Colorado hunts canceled due to hurricanes Harvey and Irma, as well as the many wildfires burning in the western states.

“We’re making an emergency exception to our policy of only providing refunds 30 days prior to the start of the hunting season,” Bob Broscheid, director of CPW, said in a news release. “We hope this provides some relief to the hurricane and fire victims, the first responders and family members with their homes flooded.”

Requests for refunds will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and no paybacks will be made for licenses that have been in the field. All requests must be submitted by Jan. 31, 2018, and those affected should call Sarah Lovik, the limited license refund coordinator, at 303-291-7208 to initiate that process.

When you call, please be prepared to provide proof that you have been impacted by the hurricanes or wildfires. Accepted documents include insurance claim numbers, FEMA number, a copy of a canceled hotel or flight reservation, or affidavit with signed narrative stating why you had to cancel your trip.

Arcade Hunting: No Tribute To The Great Outdoors

http://www.npr.org/2017/09/23/552985140/arcade-hunting-no-tribute-to-the-great-outdoors

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had a hunting video game installed in the agency’s cafeteria.

Molly Riley/AP

Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke has just installed an arcade game called Big Buck Hunter Pro in his department’s cafeteria. Interior staffers can now take a few minutes’ break to aim toy rifles at a video screen and plink away at animated elk, antelope, caribou and deer.

The bucks fall over dead, but don’t bleed. It’s a game.

Secretary Zinke tweeted on Tuesday, “To highlight #sportsmen contributions 2 conservation I installed Big Buck Hunter in the employee cafeteria. Get excited for #hunting season!”

Secretary Zinke recently signed an order to expand hunting on public lands.

I do not hunt. That will not surprise almost anyone who listens to Weekend Edition. I do not find hunting a sport, as long as the deer and bears can’t shoot back.

But I know a few hunters, and have done hunting stories. I have even seen Big Buck Hunter games in a few bars. I respect that hunters cherish the outdoors and want to keep wilderness undeveloped and wild. I agree that people who eat cheeseburgers and holiday turkey shouldn’t look haughtily down their noses at hunting. The chicken breast you may grill tonight wasn’t born in that plastic wrap. Hunters at least lock eyes with what they eat.

Hunters don’t just aim, fire and fell deer like bowling pins.

I’m not as upset to see zombies, space invaders and super villains burst into flame when they’re zapped on screens, and maybe that’s all the animated deer are to anyone who fires away at them on Big Buck Hunter. But it’s Secretary Zinke who suggests this arcade game is some kind of tribute to hunters and conservation. You can also show respect for wildlife and wilderness by going into the woods and walking, looking and listening.