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Afternoon at a Seattle Hospital

Squirrel on a stump eating a nut

While waiting in admitting at a Seattle hospital for a medical procedure, I picked up a magazine entitled “Missouri Conservationist – Servicing Nature and You”, published by the Missouri Department of Conservation. I thought I would learn something interesting, possibly inspiring, about conservation projects underway in a different state. Instead, I was disappointed and frankly disgusted by one of the featured articles, “Hunting Squirrels with Dogs is Fun for the Whole Family”.

The article covered all the hunting drivel you find in hunting magazines reinforced by wildlife departments and didn’t belong in a conservation magazine. For most of us, Conservation stands for conserving, respecting and protecting natural resources.

All of the above participants hide behind a duck blind of lies and rationalizations to justify needless killing and use deceptive language to further denigrate wildlife as nothing more than unfeeling wind-up toys that only exist for human pleasure.

The narrative of the article begins with friends and families, two squirrel dogs, two children five and three who, “were a little too young to carry a gun…but were just as excited as the adults to be going squirrel hunting.” Entering the woods, they set out to locate the homes of squirrels and where they will be foraging to survive even though there is no subsistence need by the families to kill squirrels. “Rather, it’s about instilling a love of the outdoors and conservation in their children as it is about hunting squirrels”. The obvious reality is desensitizing children to violence and killing.

It doesn’t take long for one of the dogs to find a scent and bark around a particular tree and with one shotgun blast, “the harvested fox squirrel was lying on a pile of oak leaves”. A short time later, another squirrel is “harvested” with the assistance of the dogs “who were praised for their efforts”. There is disappointment with one squirrel who can’t be shot as it retreats “into a cavity, likely its den, and wouldn’t venture out” However, “Austin is able to bag his third squired in the morning.

The narrative concludes, “The hunt was not about how many squirrels we harvested. Rather, passing on a love of the outdoors and conservation of an abundant and renewable wildlife resource”.

These purported lovers of nature need to discard their camouflage and replace it with a warm coat for the truth. We bagged one and harvested another are simply words to cover up senseless killing. Wildlife is not a crop but, like each one of us, has one life to live and like us they experience pain, fear, hunger, and pleasure.

Squirrels are not simply an “it” but males and females, young and old, brothers and sisters, mothers who care and nurture their young, while males forage and store food for winter. They exhibit their unique communication that we will never understand or care to understand.

My surgical procedure was over and I walked through admitting once again and saw nervous faces on the young and old, some with life-threatening illnesses and others waiting for invasive surgery.

I drove away, boarded an Edmonds ferry, reflecting on how precious life is for all inhabitants we share the world with. Soon I would be home surrounded by forests, abundant wildlife, companion and farm animals who know they are safe and secure at Precious Life Animal Sanctuary and the simple words: “Live and Let Live”.

Ralph Turner, Founder
Precious Life Animal Sanctuary

“All beings tremble before violence.
All fear death, all love life.
See yourself in others.
Then whom can you hurt?
What harm can you do?”

— Buddha