Letter from John V., a 15 year old Michigan resident and bird hobbyist, who cannot yet legally vote, but nonetheless has a vested interest in the continued protection of the mourning dove as a songbird in Michigan:
Via email received 3-6-2003
I just read the article by Mr. Sharp attacking opponents of the dove-hunting legislation. I got a little worked up so I decided to sit down and write a bit of a rebuttal. Although it's undoubtedly too long to add to the Comments page, I still thought you might want to take a look at it. Here it is:
Dear Mr. Sharp:
I am not an animal-rights person and do not find hunting to be particularly cruel, unnecessary, or wrong. However I do believe it rather arrogant to assume that the mourning dove is a "disposable animal", and that hunters have the inexplicable right to hunt anything that becomes too common. The expansion of the mourning dove's range is a good thing in that as a native species it is able to do well, as it should. The northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis ) is another native species which is gradually expanding its range northward; do you suggest hunting it also? There is no evidence suggesting the immediate need for mourning dove population control, as these birds are doing no more harm with their increased numbers than before.
The house sparrow (Passer domesticus) and the European starling (Sturnus vulgaris ) are two nonnative birds whose populations have definitely gotten out of hand. I say this not because to humans it may appear that there are too many of them to be healthy, but because there is documented evidence to prove it . European starlings and house sparrows, to cite one example, are especially harmful to the environment when they steal the nesting cavities of threatened or endangered birds. The eastern bluebird population has been hit especially hard by this problem, and conservation organizations around the country are struggling to encourage and fund programs which build and erect alternate nestboxes for bluebirds. Hunting house sparrows and European starlings would be much more beneficial to the environment than would hunting mourning doves because these birds are introduced animals and are harming native species.
The impact of hunting a native songbird, however, would be drastically different. As science has shown and as any person can see by taking a walk through the woods, each organism has a specific purpose in its ecosystem, a role to play, a niche to fill. Within such an ecosystem, all participating organisms are interdependent upon one another. Take away one one species, and the natural balance becomes irreversibly disrupted. Examples?
As you can see, human intervention is a primary cause of the disruptance of natural ecosystems. As evolution progresses normally, every species in the wild is controlled by a predator capable of keeping populations in check. In the case of the deer, the only predator left is the human. To quote yourself, "80-90 percent of the doves flitting about the nation last summer will be dead by next spring". If this is as true as you say it is, then what is the need for hunting an animal such as this which dies out so rapidly on its own? Either your numbers are incorrect or this particular argument has a few holes.
If the primary reason to hunt these doves is food-related, there is little justification. There are so many other food choices besides mourning dove which are probably much tastier, easier to obtain, and easier to prepare. If you believe it is better to eat dove because it is free, I encourage you to consider the old saying, "There's no such thing as a free lunch". Only arrogance could assume this was directed at the person who gets the lunch for free. What do I mean? While the cost to you and other hunters may be minimal, the cost of dove hunting - and hunting of any other native songbird - to the environment would be devastating, as I have shown above.
Luckily, however, the mourning dove is still kept in bounds by its own natural predators, including hawks, foxes, etc. There are numerous alternatives to hunting mourning doves, including possible low-scale control of house sparrow and European starling populations. Taking away large numbers of mourning doves would not only deplete the populations of a well-known and much-loved backyard bird but would also disrupt the natural balance of nature.
It is my hope that, with this and the many other letters of protest you have undoubtedly received regarding your article, your opinion about the "need" to hunt mourning doves has changed. If it has not, I suggest you take another look at the facts and dig a little deeper to see exactly what reasons hunters have for pursuing this harmless native songbird.
SPC Note: As with ALL participants of the SPC Comments page, we protect the individual's full identity and city of residence.
- Songbird Protection Coalition