by Max Brantley
Did anybody find it strange that North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays up and put off the Burns Park Canada goose slaughter Monday night? Did anybody find it strange that the manly men slavering to blast sitting geese didn't raise a ruckus at being deprived of their opportunity for "sport"? Did anybody think maybe the hunt remains a done deal, but was put off, for no other reason, than to give a semblance of sweet reason to an ultimate decision to go ahead with the slaughter after the birthday of the man of peace?
I'm encouraged by a correspondent to look at Arkansas hunting regulations, which ban hunting in baited areas for at least 10 days after all bait has been removed. Could North Little Rock prove that feeding of geese — the bait that helps hold them on Burns Park land — had ceased for 10 days before the shooting started? And if it couldn't prove that, would it run the risk of being held in violation of hunting law?
Writes an anonymous correspondent (again, unsubstantiated, but food for thought):
.... the announcement from Mayor Hays that seemed to be a sign of goodwill was nothing more than a PR stunt. The truth — Mayor Hays discovered early Monday morning that his hunt would be in violation of state and federal regulations. The park has been "baited" for years because the city allowed citizens to feed the geese. The city must know for a fact... the hunting area has been free of bait for 10 days. Hays had no other choice but delay hunt or be fined $15,000 for each violation. ... Mayor Hays spun his mistake of failing to educate himself with [Migratory Bird act] MBTA into a stunt that makes him look like he truly cared about looking into other options. Hays is out to arrest any person caught feeding the geese so his kill plan can move forward ASAP. Hope I'm wrong because nothing would make me happier.
UPDATE: Mayor Hays tells me he had no knowledge of the state law on baiting. "That didn't enter into it at all," he said. He said the delay was strictly a product of the outcry, a lack of urgency demanding that the hunt occur the week before Christmas and the desire to give the public a chance "to get creative" with suggestions on reducing the Canada goose population other than the Dec. 20-22 hunt, now postponed. But he said the city is firmly committed to that goal by spring and noted that the Audubon Society acknowledges that a controlled kill can be a means of population reduction.
The mayor said the city IS serious about putting an end to feeding of the geese, which is among the attractions of Burns Park. Signs noting the prohibition are to go up soon, he said. Plus, he said the city has photographs taken recently of a woman feeding geese and the license number of her car. She's going to be located and prosecuted, Hays said. A violation of the ordinance against feeding carries a fine up to $1,000. What if she says she was unaware of the prohibition? "I don't know if lack of knowledge is a defense," he said. "We'll let the judge decide that."