“You are an idiot, George,” wrote one. “You are a freaking idiot,” parodied another. “You sir are an idiot,” wrote a third.
OK, we’ve established that I am an idiot.
“Open a book, dickhole,” suggested a woman who thought I needed to be educated. “It’s people like you that make this country unlivable,” continued the woman who lives in Ohio.
“This is the most ignorant article that I have ever read,” wrote another. “This guy is a total nutbag,” suggested someone else. I was also called a moron and ignorant and sickening. Comments came from all over the country and throughout Maine.
I thought working for sportsmen was a rough job, until I began writing about exotic animal problems and issues. Some of the owners of exotics sound downright dangerous to me – never mind their pets!
The responses to my previous post about exotic animals were astonishing and alarming.
“No one should have the right to take away my loved and well cared for pets because they don’t like them! I’m not petitioning for children to be outlawed because I don’t like them! These “exotic” animals ARE my children,” wrote one woman.
That comment reminded me of the single Mom in northern Maine with two children who paid $3,000 for an animal she thought would be a great pet for her kids. Game wardens researched the cat and discovered it to be dangerous. They refused the permit and helped the woman get a refund.
From Minnesota came this remark: “Non-venomous captive reptiles kill <1 person per year (this includes large constrictors including Burms, Retics, etc…) while dogs kill 35+ annually (mostly children and elderly), cows kill 80+ annually.”
Well, now I feel a lot better!
They even complained about the photos that accompanied my column. “They found the worst possible pic of a black rat snake,” wrote one guy. I am truly sorry, I just couldn’t find a photo of a smiling rat snake. Ok, now I’m sounding smarmy, falling to their level. Sorry!
I did appreciate thoughtful comments like this one: “Maine’s laws are complicated, but I don’t believe the solution is more laws and regulation. Many of the MHS membership would be more than willing to work with if&w to educate them on identifying species and would work with them to maintain an unrestricted list that would be good for the hobby and not threaten Maine’s wildlife. Many of us are outdoorsmen ourselves and don’t want to see Maine’s native flora and fauna adversely affected by an invasive species.”
A few came to my defense against this onslaught, one woman writing, “SIMPLY PUT THEY ARE EXOTIC AND THEY DON’T BELONG IN MAINE! LEAVE THEM IN THEIR NATURAL INHABITAT!”
In response to the initial flood of angry remarks, I asked respondents these questions: “Have any of you been involved in or following the work of the task force, as I have? And given the cost of administering the law and your permits, do you think it is reasonable to expect you to pay those costs, instead of me? I would also like to know how many of you have ever been visited by a game warden who is supposed to check your exotic animal’s cage every year?”
Not surprisingly, only one person answered all of my questions. Here is what he wrote: “George, yes I have been involved with the task force, and with IFW at other times with the unrestricted list. I agree with you the system is complicated and needs simplifying. I have suggested and worked for switching to NH’s system many times. It would greatly reduce IFW’s workload on exotics reptiles and amphibians.
“As to the costs of the system I have paid in plenty both through my hunting fees (which I am fine with them going towards this) and through permits that they denied because they didn’t want to issue permits. All things considered they have issued very few permits over the years. They don’t like to so they don’t.
“I have NEVER been visited by IFW because none of my animals require permits. I would gladly pay more then $27 every two years if I could actually get the permits for the animals I also want. Enough to even cover the warden’s time.”
Another guy who has been involved in the process provided a lengthy response, most of which made sense, but then posted, right after it, this comment: “These animals CANNOT establish themselves here. That is why George’s claims are so ridiculous. One of the criteria IF&W has for allowing a species on the unrestricted list, is that its natural range does not match ours, for the very purpose of preventing invasive species. Unfortunately, this is an issue in warmer climates… but we’re talking about Maine.”
Could it be that this guy has not heard about climate change and global warming? While the management of exotics that require permits is a mess, I am especially alarmed by the 16 pages listing exotics that don’t require permits. I doubt that we know, for certain, that all of these would not be able to live outside their cages in Maine’s warming climate.
Red-eared sliders are a good example, an exotic animal that was allowed in Maine because we thought they were not a threat. “And then oops,” said Jim Connolly, DIF&W’s Director of Fisheries and Wildlife who is spending a lot of time on exotic animal issues, “they are now established in the wild in Maine. We don’t always understand the consequences and dangers. We don’t even track them because they’re on the allowed list.”
I won’t apologize for being outspoken about the importance of protecting Maine’s native fish and wildlife – or in demanding that the owners of exotic animals abide by the laws governing their pets and pay the full costs of the administration of those laws.
If that makes me an idiot, a dickhole, and a nutbag, so be it.