Tag Archives: wildlife

Legislators chipping in to ‘Hunters for the Hungry’ program

The Tennessee Wildlife Federation reports growing success in efforts to have state legislators donate from their campaign funds to a program for providing venison to the needy.

The “Hunters for the Hungry” program, affiliated with the federation since 1998, involves deer hunters donating a slain animal to groups that provide food to organizations serving the hungry, such as Second Harvest Food Bank in Knoxville.

Hunters for the Hungry has recruited 83 meat processors statewide to convert the deer carcasses into frozen venison at a reduced processing price, typically about $40 per deer, according to the foundation’s executive director, Mike Butler.

To cover that cost, Hunters for the Hungry solicits charitable donations. The “legislative challenge” to seek funding from politicians had its origins three years ago when state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, embraced and promoted the program as chairman of the Legislature’s Nutrition Caucus, Butler said. More recently, state Rep. Jimmy Eldridge, R-Jackson, and Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, have played leadership roles, he said. Continue reading

Dogs and skunks top topics in 2016 animal protection report

Tennessee Voters for Animal Protection doesn’t have much to report in its annual report on legislative doings. A bill the group supported, requiring registration of dog breeders, didn’t come up for a vote; and a bill opposed, allowing skunks as pets, died on the House floor after passing the Senate.

The group’s annual rating of legislators thus is largely based on those matters. Highest ratings went to sponsors and supporters of the dog breeder legislation; lowest to sponsors of the skunk bill.

The full “scorecard” report, including all members of the House and Senate if you scroll down a bit, is HERE.

And here’s the organization’s news release: Continue reading

Officer loses in squirrel pepper-spraying, shooting case

A federal judge has rejected a lawsuit contending a Mountain City police officer was wrongfully fired for pepper-spraying a squirrel and shooting at it in a Dollar General Store in 2013, reports the Johnson City Press.

Officer Jody Putnam’s lawsuit, claiming the town and police department violated his rights under the Sixth, Fourth and 14th constitutional amendments and asking for $2 million in damages, was dismissed Feb. 19 by U.S. Magistrate Judge Clifton Corker.

In Corker’s written opinion, which included a colorful description of the Sept. 27, 2013, attempted squirrel shooting that quoted and cited Ray Stevens’ satirical song “Mississippi Squirrel Revival,” the judge ruled Putnam was an at-will employee of Mountain City, and his firing, whether because of his breach of the department’s firearms policy or his refusal to file a weapons discharge report — both of which Putnam admitted — was constitutional.

…In his claim, Putnam said that after he was fired, the town gave accounts about the incident “to several press outlets and ruined any chance of (Putnam) recovering his 17-year career. (Putnam) could not get a job with any law enforcement agency in the country; due to the defendants making this event a national news story.”

Corker noted that while that may be true, it doesn’t set aside that his dismissal was appropriate based on the town’s assertion Putnam improperly discharged his firearm in a store and he failed to file the appropriate administrative reports for discharging his service weapon.

House spurns skunks as pets

A Senate-passed bill that would legalize the keeping of skunks as pets in Tennessee failed on the House floor Monday evening after coming in for criticism from state veterinarians.

The bill (SB1821) had passed the Senate 27-3 on Feb. 17. But when sponsor Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, brought it to the House floor Monday, Rep. Courtney Rogers, R-Hendersonville, promptly asked him about veterinarian objections.

Skunks are rabies carriers, she said, and there is no vaccine against rabies for skunks.

Faison disputed that proposition, contending there is a vaccine — though it’s “off-label.” And he said there has never been a case of rabies from pet skunks in 17 states that now allow keeping them as pets.

Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, also spoke against the bill. Jones said she had a pet skunk “as a kid” and “no matter what they remove it still smells like a skunk. And they have very sharp teeth.”

When the bill came up for a vote, it got only 44 yes votes while 38 voted no and the rest either abstained or simply didn’t vote. A bill needs 50 yes votes for passage.

Note: News release from the veterinarians association is below.
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Committees decide skunk bill doesn’t stink

A bill to allow Tennesseans to keep skunks as pets has won initial approval in committees of both the House and Senate with the sponsors contending it will provide a moneymaking opportunity for breeders of domesticated and de-scented animals.

The Senate Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee approved the bill (SB1821) in less than two minutes on a 7-1 vote without discussion beyond a brief explanation by Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, the Senate sponsor, who said 17 other states already allow skunks to be kept as domestic pets and sold, including the border states of Kentucky, Alabama and Georgia. It’s scheduled for a Senate floor vote this week.

The discussion was somewhat more lively in the House Agriculture Subcommittee, where the companion bill was approved on voice vote with Rep. Johnny Shaw, D-Boliver, asking to be recorded as voting no after questioning sponsor Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, at some length.

Faison said the bill was requested by constituents and, when initially approached, “I thought it was a joke.” But on looking into the matter, Faison said that skunks can be sold as pets for up to $1,000 each and there could be “tons of revenue” for those eager to engage in skunk marketing.
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Deer poachers get TWRA record penalty

Two La Vergne men have been banned from hunting for life in Tennessee and 43 other stats for illegally killing as many as 40 deer, reports The Tennessean. They also allegedly took photos and videos of dead or wounded animals being abused.

Densibel Calzada, 23, and Eddy Albert, 21, received the harshest penalty ever issued by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

“We will never know how many deer these two killed, but we believe they could have poached at least 40,” said TWRA Sgt. Matt Brian. “We charged them with violations based on the strongest evidence we found showing the seriousness of their poaching crimes.”

Search warrants served by TWRA officers on Calzada and Albert’s homes produced cell phones where photos and videos were found of the two disrespecting the animals they had poached.

“They were getting on top of the deer and doing all sorts of things,” said TWRA information officer Doug Markham. “They had one where the deer was still alive and they blew his head off. They were high-fiving each other after showing the hole where they had shot one at nighttime. I didn’t see all of the videos, but the officer said some of it was just really grotesque.”

…Along with the lifetime ban, they also were ordered to pay $1,000 each in court costs, $5,000 in restitution, had their weapons — a rifle and a crossbow — confiscated, must perform 100 hours of community service for the TWRA and were placed on 18 months probation.

“People don’t understand what banning them for life does to them,” Markham said. “It destroys their ability to move around with a gun. If they get caught again, they could go to jail.”

State’s raccoon vaccination program underway

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Raccoons in parts of East and Middle Tennessee will be vaccinated for rabies under a U.S. Agriculture Department program.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency says the Agriculture Department will distribute an oral vaccine for selected counties. The vaccine is placed inside a fishmeal block or coated with fishmeal known to attract raccoons and placed in suitable habitat.

Residents should leave the bait alone and instruct children to do the same, but if found where children or pets play, wear gloves and move the bait to a suitable habitat. If a pet consumes the bait, confine the animal and avoid the pet’s saliva for 24 hours, washing any skin that has been licked.

The state says ground crews and aircraft will distribute the vaccine.

Note: The Department of Health news release, including a listing of the counties involved, is below.
Continue reading

List of some miscellaneous bills legislators dealt with last week

To go along with listings of legislation to be dealt with in the final week of the 2015 General Assembly session (previous post HERE), here’s a list of some bills dealt with last week that perhaps didn’t get a lot of attention.

Given final approval and sent to the governor:

Repealing sprinkler ordinances
HB787, which would repeal all local government ordinances requiring sprinklers in multi-residence townhomes. As amended, it allows a city council or county commission to reinstate local sprinkler ordinances by a two-thirds majority vote – though many fire department representatives, including one from Knoxville, still opposed the measure. The measure supported by the Tennessee Homebuilders Association was approved 23-5 in the Senate; 74-18 in the House — with no votes generally coming from Democrats. Sponsors were Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, and Rep. Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville.

Wildlife killing penalties
HB1185, which substantially increases penalties for illegally killing a deer, bear, wild turkey or elk. It has a detailed list of fines — labeled “restitution” in the bill — depending on the animal killed, but in general they can go into thousands of dollars compared to a $200 minimum fine in most cases under current law. Final approval came after resolving a House-Senate difference on the bear penalty. As it wound up, it’s $3,000 for any bear illegally killed plus $3,500 extra if the bear was a cub or a female bear with cubs. The House approved 89-9; the Senate 28-3.

Buzzard killing decriminalized
SB204, which decriminalizes the killing of black vultures insofar as Tennessee law goes, though it’s still a crime under federal law unless the buzzard slayer has a special federal permit. The Tennessee Cattlemen Association says black buzzards have been killing newborn calves, goats and sheep statewide and Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, showed a committee pictures of a reported $25,000 in damage caused to a home by the birds. The bill passed the House 95-1 with Rep. Kelly Keisling, R-Byrdstown, as sponsor. The Senate vote was 31-2.

Powdered alcohol banned
HB374, which outlaws — as a misdemeanor — the sale of “powdered alcohol” in Tennessee. The federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved distribution of a powdered alcohol product known as Palcohol, which can be mixed with water to create an alcoholic beverage that Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro, a sponsor, says is not covered under current state laws or Alcoholic Beverage Commission regulations. The bill was approved 31-1 in the Senate and 92-0 in the House.

‘Right to Try Act’
SB811, entitled the “Tennessee Right to Try Act.” Pushed nationally by the Goldwater Institute and already approved in six other states, the measure authorizes doctors to write prescriptions for experimental drugs that have not received final approval from by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for patients with incurable illnesses. Both chambers approved the bill unanimously, though the Senate added an amendment — requiring two doctors, not just one — to certify that a patient’s illness is incurable under medications otherwise available. House approval of the amendment is virtually certain. Sponsors are Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, and Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald.

Federal spending sought, condemned
The annually approved “voluntary assessment fee” for Tennessee hospitals, designed to trigger more federal funding through TennCare to the state’s health care centers, won approval of both chambers with little debate. The fee is 4.52 percent of a hospital’s revenues, generating $450 million in revenue within the state that winds up producing $1.3 billion in payments to the hospitals that pay it because of the resulting federal match money. It was approved 33-0 in the Senate; 91-2 in the House.

A similar levy on nursing homes (HB151) — though based on the number of beds a home maintains rather than revenues — was also approved by a unanimous Senate vote and the House is expected to go along Monday with near-unanimous approval. The nursing home levy brings in $107 million in state funds and the federal government then adds almost $200 million with the combined total then paid to nursing homes, according to legislative staff estimates for the coming year.

SJR67, which would add Tennessee to the list of states seeking a federal constitutional convention to impose limits on federal spending, won 23-5 approval in the Senate on Thursday, though it still awaits action in the House. Debate included Sen. Sara Kyle, D-Memphis, suggesting that it was ironic to see Republicans roundly denouncing federal spending after approving unanimously bills that will add to federal spending.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, somewhat agreed in responding to Kyle’s comments.

“There is no shortage of hypocrisy in the General Assembly. I’ll acknowledge that,” Norris said, noting that about 43 percent of the state’s $33 billion budget is funded by the federal government.

Still, Norris joined sponsor Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, in arguing that a state-triggered constitutional convention would be a reasonable means of moving to curb “out-of-control” federal spending and reducing the federal deficit.

Bill authorizes slaying wild hogs ‘by any means necessary’

Wild hogs cause about $1.5 billion in agricultural damage a year in Tennessee, and lawmakers in three counties want to allow landowners to control them with “any means necessary,” according to the Times-Free Press.

First cousins Riley Frady and Wendell Oakes, two lifelong residents and landowners in northwest Bledsoe County, say the bill being considered in the Tennessee Legislature would help hunters better control the feral pigs that can root up acres of farmland in a night.

“They’re after your seeds and bugs and roots and stuff. They get their food out of the ground,” said Oakes, standing at the sawmill on the family farm on state Highway 30 near Fall Creek Falls State Park.

For many area landowners, Frady is the man to call when wild hogs become a problem. He helped get the measure passed by the Bledsoe County Commission en route to the bill under consideration in Nashville.

If the bill introduced by Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton, and co-sponsored by Sens. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, and Mike Bell, R-Riceville, becomes law, hunters will be able hunt hogs with dogs Bledsoe, Polk and White counties all year around except during deer season. (Note: It’s SB702 and has already cleared committee in the Senate.)

However, the Wild Hog Eradication Action Team, a 24-organization partnership of state agencies and other groups, wants to get rid of the destructive animals but advocates trapping rather than dogs.

Senator says TN has too many deer, opposes bill raising penalties for killing them illegally

Outdoors writer Bob Hodge watched a Senate Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources hearing on SB904, which would increase financial penalties for illegally killing big game animals. In a News Sentinel column, he’s somewhat critical of Sen. Frank Niceley’s opposition to the bill on grounds that deer “on on the verge of being a nuisance” statewide.

By putting more teeth in the law, the TLC representative believes some of the folks who are willing to gamble on illegally shooting a deer, bear, turkey or anything else, might think twice if they were facing a four- to five-figure fine.

Niceley wasn’t convinced by the argument because, in his view, poachers are actually doing us a favor because Tennessee is being over run by deer.

He mentioned a town north of Nashville that has a deer population problem and would “welcome” poachers. He mentioned a recent fatality that was the result of a car hitting a deer because there are too many deer.

Poachers? Maybe we should call them community activists.

“I just talked to legal and they said I could take my six counties out of this,” Niceley says during the meeting. “We don’t have a problem. I don’t see any reason for my counties to be in it.”

Poaching not a problem in any of his six counties? A landowner in one of the counties Niceley represents said “It’s like deer hunting is a 24/7 thing here. Road hunters, jack lighting … and it’s year round, not just during deer season.”

The landowner did point out that if you’re going to be hunting off the road and at night, then season dates probably don’t represent a big deterrent anyway.

But Niceley seems to believe poaching is OK because “Deer (are) on the verge of being a nuisance all across the state.”

…(Under the bill) Any deer you get convicted of (illegally) killing in Tennessee would cost you $1,000 and add another $1,000 for an antlered buck. It would be another $500 per point for an 8, 9 or 10 point and $750 a point for anything over 11.

That would mean a 12-point buck could cost you $11,000 and your hunting privileges until the money is paid.

That’s not about deer management. That’s a deterrent to being an outlaw.

Obviously not everybody can tell the difference.

Note: The committee put off a vote on the bill until next week. As Hodge notes in his column, Nicely suggested he may prepare an amendment to exempt the counties he represents from being covered by the proposed new law.