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Baiting deserves across-the-board ban


It's not fair on public land and it shouldn't be any different on private property.

Maryland should outlaw, in all cases, the practice of luring wild animals to a killing ground.

Baiting, as the practice is called, is forbidden on land owned by the state and federal governments.

Hunters are not allowed to put out grain or other food near a blind or tree stand to get animals in the habit of standing around, waiting to get shot.

But it's a totally different story on private property.

Joe Lamp, a member of the governor's Wildlife Advisory Commission, thinks the prohibition should be extended.


The Anne Arundel County resident says he'll ask his eight fellow commissioners to take up the issue when they meet Wednesday in Annapolis.

Lamp is a member of the Humane Society, a sore point with a lot of hunters, who feel Gov. Parris N. Glendening put a fox in the henhouse when he appointed Lamp to the post. This new stand isn't going to improve things.

But when the man is right, the man is right.

The way Lamp sees it, baiting deer sends a wrong message.

"We feed them and feed them and feed them to gain their trust, and then kill them. I'm not sure that's the kind of message we want to send to children," he says. "It's sad and it's morally wrong."

There are some other reasons I can think of.

First, creating a fast-food spot in the woods changes the deer's feeding habits and increases its nutritional intake. Better food, better breeding, according to the studies I've seen. Just what we need, a larger deer population.

And by feeding the deer, we're doing just the opposite of what the signs in parks tell us: keep wildlife wild and don't feed the bears.

But here's what's really wrong with baiting animals: what happens next isn't hunting.

Hunters are on firm footing when they say that the pleasure comes not in the killing, but in being in the woods and using skills.

It's really hard to argue there's any skill involved in laying out a buffet and then killing the guest of honor when he comes to eat.

Lamp says he knows that people will argue that anglers bait fish, "but there really isn't another way to catch fish. Deer are another story."

Property owners might argue that they should be able to do what they want on their own land. Nonsense. Laws make it illegal to run a marijuana farm, a still or a hazardous waste dump on private property.

The law should be extended to end baiting.

Report worth tossing

With little fanfare, the state's Non-Lethal Task Force issued its report on ways to reduce those so-called "animal-human conflicts," a phrase that reminds me of my first marriage.

The report's a real corker and should be People's Exhibit A as to why these boards, bodies, agencies, commissions, watch-dog groups and panels should be banished to Gilligan's Island.

As the author of many an inflated term paper in college, I know one when I read one. The thing goes on for 55 pages - more than half of them footnotes, bibliography, telephone directory and other flapdoodle - to tell us what we already know.

Here it is in three paragraphs:

Certain animals would like access to the land we have turned into subdivisions and shopping malls. They have made their demands known by eating our shrubs, rummaging in our garbage cans and running into our cars.

Humans, who consider themselves superior, are surprised to learn that their ham-handed takeover has annoyed the animals. They want them to go somewhere else. Or commit suicide.

But being suburbanites, they don't want them shot.

Now, let me give you the answers supplied by the NLTF:

Put up fences.

Put up signs.

Put up roadside reflectors.

Eliminate food sources on your property (unless, of course, you're baiting the animal).

Further, Maryland should enact, expand, implement, create, provide and develop all kinds of policies to make it look like something's being done.

I didn't see anything in the report to suggest hiring reading teachers for the animals so that they can learn their roles in all of this. But maybe there's money in President Bush's education inititive to cover this.

Now, I know there will be howls aplenty from the folks on the task force and their friends (my neighbors) in the People's Republic of Montgomery County about how unfair this criticism is, and how hard the group worked and blah, blah, blah. Pretty much the same arguments I used on my college professors when I handed in something this lame and tried to pass it off as brilliant prose.

It didn't fly 30 years ago and it won't fly now.

You can read this thing yourself online ( You can even download a copy to place on your coffee table to impress your neighbors, especially if you live in Montgomery County.

I suggest curling up with it in front of a roaring fireplace. And then throwing it in and reading something worthwhile.

Birding bonanza

Finally, here's something to put on your calendar.

The good people of the tourism boards of Worcester and Wicomico counties are again showing why the lower Eastern Shore is a birder's paradise.

Delmarva Birding Weekend will be April 26-28 this year, and if previous events are any indication, it's best to sign up early.

There will be guided canoe trips, boat tours, walks, a night visit to the Salisbury Zoo and hikes. The 32nd annual Ward World Championship Waterfowl Carving Competition will be taking place at the convention center in Ocean City all weekend, too.

For information, call 1-800-521-9189.

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