Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Ode to the Oryxes

By Cap'n O

FEBRUARY 16, 1998:  Generally, I'm in favor of shooting things such as animals, $2,000 computers that can't be operated by anything but another computer and fleeing felons.

A while back, I urged the shooting of some aged, toothless buffalo at an army fort. Buffalo are lazy beasts that present a negative image of the nation. All they do is eat and sleep and lumber around looking depressed. No buffalo has ever filled out a job application, and many live in national parks, which is in effect, subsidized housing.

But not all animals need to be shot. Rats and other furry rodents deserve our respect and their lives. I get the shakes and the sniffles when I pass the mouse trap section in grocery stores.

Other animals that deserve to live, at least for a little while, are some 200 African antelope, commonly known as oryxes, that have gotten into White Sands National Monument. The oryxes face mass slaughter at the hands of state wildlife officials who claim the big-eared beasts are a nuisance.

State Game and Fish Department hunters would shoot all 200 oryxes after Easter and then sell their meat, hides and heads, according to one proposal to deal with the animals. State bureaucrats say that killing the oryxes is the most efficient and least costly way of getting the animals out of the monument.

As much as I like big, dead animals, this proposal is stupid. It sounds like killing for the sake of killing. That's wrong.

The oryxes were brought to the White Sands Missile Range in 1969 from Africa so they could prosper and then be hunted. The herd outside of the monument has grown to 2,500 animals. In 1969, officials built a 68-mile fence around the monument to keep the oryxes out. About 200 of them got trapped inside the monument.

Since then, monument and state Game people have been claiming that the oryxes are a nuisance because they eat up all the vegetation inside the monument. I'm sure that's true. They also say that the oryxes are mean because they attack people and vehicles. If those are grounds for execution, I would have been killed long ago.

There is also the possibility that because the oryxes came from Africa, their introduction here is a sinister U.N. plan to eradicate native American wildlife or to bring international game wardens to the country. That might be true. But even if it is, let's not have a mass slaughter of these beasts.

The oryxes can be shot with tranquilizer darts and moved off of the monument lands. Or they can be herded with helicopters and moved. Those methods cost money, and that's why officials are reluctant to use them. So here's another solution. Our state is loaded with skilled cowboys and cowgals. Let's hire them to round up the oryxes. A difficult job, no doubt, but one that can be done.

There are other reasons for rejecting the mass hunt. Although White Sands National Monument with its 275 square miles is large, the missile range is larger. In the monument, the oryxes are a bit like sitting ducks. They'd be pretty easy prey. But they'd have a better chance against hunters in the vast spaces of the missile range where they could hide behind bombed out tanks and old missile parts. Hell, they might even be able to lure a hunter into stepping on an unexploded bomb. Hunting is supposed to be a challenge where you enjoy beer and the outdoors, not an easy slaughter.

In the scheme of things, the lives of a couple of hundred oryxes mean nothing. There are 2,500 more of them alive down there. And with the way they breed, there's not much danger of running out of them. But we must have some respect for wildlife and for life. It's true that animals are helpless next to our high-powered guns and sharp butchering knives. But to brutally exercise dominion over them is wrong and foolish. It'll also come back to bite us. Because as much control as we think we have over nature, it is nature that rules us. You should be respectful of a power greater than yourself.

There's one more reason why we should reject the slaughter of the oryxes by Game and Fish Department hunters. Why should public employees have all the fun?


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