Ted Nugent, the NRA’s longest-serving board member and a featured speaker at the NRA’s recent convention in St. Louis a couple weeks ago, has pleaded guilty in federal court for transporting an illegally killed black bear in Alaska. He reportedly shot a bear with a bow and arrow, but failed to kill the animal. Four days later, he shot another bear in violation of the law.
It was Nugent’s second poaching crime in just two years. Back in 2010, he pleaded no contest to killing a young deer with the use of bait and not having a properly signed hunting tag in California.
The NRA says in its “code of ethics” that it condemns poaching: “I will obey all game laws and regulations, and will insist that my companions do likewise.” But talk is cheap. Here’s a board member, an NRA national spokesperson, and an annual convention presenter who has been caught poaching twice. If the NRA’s credo means anything, and isn’t just rhetorical window-dressing, it should be applied to Nugent.
Anti-poaching work largely falls on the shoulders of state and federal wildlife agencies, game wardens’ associations, some responsible hunting groups, and The Humane Society of the United States. Since 2008, The HSUS has offered more than $400,000 in rewards for information in poaching cases, donated equipment and robotic decoys to cash-strapped state wildlife agencies, sponsored an anti-poaching tip line, and launched a network aimed at ensuring that poaching crimes are taken seriously by prosecutors. The HSUS and HSLF have helped to pass laws to strengthen poaching penalties, and block efforts to weaken them or to strip wildlife officers of their powers. We often fight the NRA when we try to strengthen anti-poaching laws.
When the NRA won’t even stand up against illegal poaching, it’s no surprise the group is on the side of the most unsporting and inhumane legal practices, no matter how extreme or how reviled by rank-and-file sportsmen. The NRA is fighting against Senate Bill 1221 in California, which passed the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water this week by a vote of 5 to 3, and would ban the use of packs of radio-collared dogs to chase bears and bobcats onto tree branches where trophy hunters can shoot the frightened animals at point-blank range. Judd Hanna, a hunter and president of the California Game Wardens Foundation, provided a litany of cases of poaching and other unethical behavior by houndsmen, in his statement of support for S.B. 1221.
At the federal level, the NRA is now pushing the U.S. Congress to pass a $12 million package that provides a bailout to a tiny group of wealthy trophy hunters who want to import polar bear heads and hides in defiance of current law, mandates hunting on nearly all federal land without regard for the impact on wildlife or other resources, and strips the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to protect habitat, animals, and people from lead poisoning through toxic ammunition exposure. They rammed the bill through the House on the heels of the NRA convention, and now they are targeting the Senate.
It’s time to tell Congress that a group that won’t stand up to poaching has no business asking for a $12 million hand-out from taxpayers to roll back our existing conservation laws. Please call your two U.S. Senators today at (202) 225-3121 and urge them to oppose H.R. 4089.