March 03, 2007

Take that thought a little further, sir...

Fawn, Jade and I were down at the "Gathering of Nations" tent. This is an absolutely fantastic event where anybody can go and learn about Yukon First Nations and Yukon First Nations culture. For those who are interested, there are traditional arts and clothing for sale, and there are often performers on stage, storytelling, drumming, dancing, or singing. For the hungry, there is moose stew and bison chili for sale. And what would moose stew or bison chili be without a piece of bannock?

And it was packed at the Gathering of Nations tent today! They even had to put up a "filled to capacity" sign.

Fawn, Jade and I all had a great time, but as I was on my way out the door, I heard something that bothered me. A guy said:

"It's too bad about that poor lynx."

There was a lynx skinning demonstration inside the tent. His statement bothered me because it demonstrated a certain...lack of understanding.

When I was five years old, it would have bothered me too. Who could be mean enough to kill a poor animal?! Over the years, I had the good fortune to meet and get to know more than a few traditional harvesters. This animal was not hunted to be a trophy. The lynx will get used. The hide will help provide some income for a family and the meat will get used. If it's not eaten by that family (some people really like the taste of lynx and say it's like chicken only more tender) the meat will be used for something else.

So, when the guy said "It's too bad about that poor lynx", I had to comment.

I said to him, "It'll get used."

To which he replied, "I'm sure it would have been much happier contributing to biodiversity and the gene pool."

I had a lot to say to that, but didn't. I was going in a different direction and, maybe I should have given him the benefit of the doubt, but I felt he wasn't really the kind of guy who was willing to carry his thought a little further.

Lynx love to eat varying hare. And, over the course of a year, they eat lots of them. By trapping that one lynx, more hares will be able to reproduce. The increase in the hare population will make things easier for the lynx that follow and those lynx will grow up healthier and stronger than they might have otherwise.

So, yes, that one lynx might not be contributing to the gene pool any more, but its absence might actually be helping subsequent lynx populations become stronger.

Over-trapping is another issue, but you'll be hard-pressed to find many trappers these days who do that. Over-trapping was an issue in the post-war days when soldiers returned home and didn't have many economic opportunities. Fur prices were high and many non-trappers became first-time trappers who, not understanding animal cycles, trapped-out areas before quitting or moving on to a new trapline. Fortunately, those days are gone and those who trap nowadays trap for the lifestyle.

And trapping and traditional harvesting is a lifestyle, and I'm pretty sure it's one that has a much smaller ecological impact than the empathetic gentleman.

And kudos to the Tr'ondek Hwech'en woman who had the courage to share her culture by skinning that lynx. And thank you to the lynx, for sharing itself so that we might all gain a little more understanding.


Unknown said...

A lot of southerners, especially, don't get that Michael. To many urban jungle, green peace, PETA supporting, tree hugging, grung granola chewing, close minded universalists are destroying an activity that is not only traditional among many first nations, not only one of the few economic activities that is a renewable primary resource, but, when conducted responsibly, can actually aid the ecosystem. People really need to consider more deeply the issues surrounding all animal culling before making statements like the one you heard. I'm not saying everyone needs to support it, just think more deeply about it before condemning it.

Anonymous said...

Mike: It's too cold to go outside to trap a lynx...