Knee Deep column – Food chain guilt and armchair experts

SHOTGUNS, CAMO, DOGS and WADERS? Now that's just cheating!


Whenever a mainstream media-generated headline featuring wildlife is posted on social media, I like to scroll the responses since for the most part, you’re seeing a lot of non hook-and-bullet folks (lesser mortals) “passionately” weighing in on something they barely scratch the surface of in real life.

Videos of sharks close to shore, a bear in a residential neighborhood, perhaps a mountain lion spotted by a school. All that stuff routinely becomes web-only clickbait because it’s not people like Western Outdoor News readers (the elite) who get sucked in by that brand of stuff because to us, seeing a shark, bear or mountain lion is no big deal.

While I’m not really going after the anti-hunting or fishing types out there, they are part of it. There’s a standard menu of replies that follows a simple hunting photo let alone a news headline, and without rattling them all off, many of them usually bring up the fact that the human is armed and the beast is not.


That flavor of input can and will devolve into the questioning of manhood, pulling the ol’ “arm the animals!” card or expressing a desire to see the hunter catch a bullet or arrow, or asking how it would feel to have a hook set into your chops or take a gaff to the neck.

My question is, why should humans dial it back because we were the ones that figured out how to make and use projectiles and sharp things and PowerBait? News flash: humans are animals, too.

I’ve never interviewed a fish, but I feel rather comfortable in assuming a wahoo doesn’t feel bad because it can swim 60 miles per hour and has a mouth full of scalpels when it turns a school of sardines into a flickering cloud of scales. A red-tailed hawk is just fine with wings, talons and Gyro-stabilized binoculars for eyes when it takes a bunny for a ride. Chameleons have tongues twice as long as their bodies that zip from 0 to 60 in a hundredth of a second. That’s bad news for a nearby insect “just doing it’s thing and not hurting anything.”

Crabs with claws, snakes with venom, spiders in webs, the Dodgers with an $8.25 billion TV deal, this can go on forever. For something to live, something else has to die, and Mother Nature makes sure these mismatches exist to preserve the balance of things.

The same can be said for a kid on opening day of deer season with a pocket of .243 Winchester and Ol’ Bessie, or yours truly on the Fury with 4-feet of fluorocarbon and a pack of Gamakatsus. In fact, outdoorsmen take it a step further than non humans because we regulate ourselves with laws and ethics.

Tell that to the orca who likes to repeatedly see how high he can punt a seal before it becomes lunch. A laundry list of cats – ranging from your outdoor pet to lions – kill all kinds of stuff they don’t end up eating (cats will be cats), and if you want to dig a little deeper on this, look up “surplus killing” and get back to me.

Getting back to sharks, mountian lions, bears and anything else that tends to show up within a mile or so of a Starbucks, that’s where comments below headlines (I say “headlines” instead of “stories” because more often than not, it’s obvious the headline was all that was read) get funny if not perplexing and ironic.

A while back, a lady in my neighborhood took an early morning stroll through the park and saw a coyote wipe out a duck near the pond. While you’re imagining how awesome that would be to witness, she was outraged and actually making plans to make a city-level stink about it in an attempt to get the local government to put measures in place to protect the ducks.

I guess she doesn’t care about the coyote “just doing it’s thing, and being a coyote.”

It’s always entertaining when self-proclaimed nature lovers accidentally see actual nature happening. The “charismatic mega fauna” (wildlife people had stuffed versions of as kids) will always get the nod when a kombucha-sipping suburbanite becomes an instant expert based on nothing.

As many of you know, attempting to add some clarity as someone who actually knows a little something about the subject matter only causes said experts to further dig their heels in and defend their position.

A month ago, reporter Jaime Chambers of Fox 5 San Diego tweeted a cool video of an adult great white shark swimming right up to a private fishing boat. Four anglers peered over the rail for an arm’s reach look at the beast, cheering and high-fiving in disbelief.

Chambers’ tweet said, “25 miles west of Mission Beach, San Diego, a white shark visited a fishing boat. I’m just glad it was pretty big boat.”

The first comment read, “That bloody bin you see in the water? The shark smells that blood from miles away and thinks it’s her next meal. Sharks don’t just visit for funzies. This is misleading.”

The “bloody bin” was a seal bit in half, and yes, sharks just do just visit for “funzies.”

“That’s a dead seal the shark was clearly feeding on,” I said, trying to not come off like a know-it-all. “I’m thinking the guys in the boat spotted that activity and motored over to check it out.”

“Whatever, the source of blood, the shark didn’t decide to go ‘visit the boat’ in a predator capacity. The boat “motored over” is a less dramatic headline,” she said.

Um, who said anything about the shark acting in a predatory matter? Not to mention, the dramatic “headline” wasn’t a headline at all. It was a tweet made on a personal account, but don’t let factual details get in the way of quality digital whining.

That’s another part of the problem: knee-jerk reactions from someone who clearly does not know what she’s looking at, and since there are a lot of those people out there, this is one of the many ways dumb takes tend to propagate.

And what about when bears, mountain lions, coyotes and whatnot show up in town? You can set your watch to the obligatory “we’re in their territory!” defense claims.

But are we? If so, where is our territory? Where are we supposed to be?