Mourning Doves Never Had a Chance
Published June 22, 2004. By Laura
Berman. The Detroit News.
Finally, the doves have reason to mourn. In addition to facing uncertain destruction from starvation, unforeseen windshields, predatory birds, the West Nile virus and other disease, Michigan's mourning doves last week won the right to face death by Michigan hunters.
Stop squawking, little birds, and deal with it.
The battle was pitched and won by the National Rifle Association and its cohort, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, and spearheaded by state Rep. Susan Tabor, the Delta Township BBQ Queen. They labored, they feasted, they arm-twisted, they won.
The mourning dove, prized for its coo-ey call and dopey manner, will now become a game bird, highly regarded for its delectable meat: a steak the size of an escargot.
By as early as fall, hunters will take aim at flocks of mourning doves, aided in part by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who promised to veto the bill but, in the end, let it stand.
Now, I'm hearing from dove lovers like George Sevald in Oscoda, who writes: "What do you think of Blondie now? I thought she said she was against dove killing ... I hope you're going to blast her ..."
And I would, absolutely, except that - like the governor - I have shed enough tears for the battered birds.
The legislative battle over the mourning dove's fate has already cost the state more than it's likely to make up via any influx of gun-toting hunter/tourists who can, after all, only buy so many chips and socks at rural Wal-marts.
Meanwhile, state legislators who might be devising creative strategies to deal with education, or health care costs, or potholes have been trading votes and delivering speeches about 2 million non-endangered birds.
Yes, they're adorable. But the dove-hunting crew was willing to wage the equivalent of a Ronald Reagan-style Cold War over the right to shoot birds.
In the face of ridicule (deserved) and public opposition, the bill's sponsor, Tabor, never wavered. She practically smacked her lips every time reporters asked her about her determination to end songbird status for the doves. Let them fry, saute, grill! She led hunting expeditions into the wilds of Indiana. She stuck to her, um, guns.
The hunters wanted to shoot mourning doves because they're plentiful, tasty and a more socially acceptable food than caterpillars.
Yes, Tabor was willing to stake her career - her very reputation - on this singular accomplishment: ending the century-old status of mourning doves in Michigan as songbirds.
To her credit, Granholm chose an alternate course. She will not go down in history as the governor who saved harmless birds from the budget hunters chasing small-fry game.
In the end, she settled for some back-room maneuvering with the Natural Resource Commission that sounds like a compromise. The commission is expected to launch a trial mourning dove season, which would include only seven rural counties bordering Ohio and Indiana.
It's over. Perhaps the Legislature can now turn its limited attention span to helping people.
And to Tabor and her gun-toting pals: Bon appetit.
- Songbird Protection Coalition