Koopmans: Fast facts thwart rumours nicely

Robert Koopmans Editor / Kamloops Daily News
November 24, 2012 01:00 AM

There are lessons to be learned in the story of the bull moose with no antlers.

For those that missed it, the tale was reported by The Daily News on Friday. It seems an old Kamloops hunter heard a story, rumours actually, about a government effort to thwart hunters by sawing off the antlers of more than 30 big bull moose in the local hills.

The motivation for doing that was to save the beasts from being shot. Had the rumours been true, there would have been good cause for outrage, as it would have really unfair to sell people hunting licences knowing they had little or no hope of filling the tag, thanks to planned intervention.

It would have been kind of like one of those old-fashioned carnival games in which people throw down money to knock over pins with a ball, not knowing the game is rigged.

As it turns out, the rumours were false, as such stories so often prove to be. The government was not trying to save bull moose from being hunted by cutting off their antlers, government environment officials told The Daily News.

There was a seed of truth behind the larger rumour, however, which brings us to the lessons to be learned. In this instance, biologists did cut the antlers off one bull moose to keep it from being shot in the hunting season because it had been tranquilized and radio-collared as part of a winter range study.

Biologists said they worried the amount of tranquilizer required to knock out a 600-kilogram bull moose could make its meat questionable for human consumption, so the decision was made to saw off its antlers, save it from potential death by bullet in the annual moose hunt, and save someone from a bad experience when eating the meat.

Seems a reasonable enough decision on the part of the government, although I can't help but wonder if another reason biologists altered the bull was to save their moose from being removed from the study. Clearly, it takes a great deal of effort to find, tranquilize and radio-collar a bull moose, and I'm sure biologists didn't want to go through such effort only to have their subject cut up and put in the freezer before the study is complete.

Regardless, there was justifiable reason for the action, and a timely explanation about why the decision was made. The release of the information nipped the rumour, or at least it should. In today's digital era, unfortunately, rumours sometimes gain longevity far beyond their expiration date.

There are two lessons in this that can be applied to other swirling debates, controversies and rumours. First, we must be cautious and maybe even a little skeptical about things we hear. As this instance shows, there are often seeds of truth in a rumour but the truth is a far cry from what the inflamed story suggests.

Second, our elected and bureaucratic officials can do much to stop rumours from becoming wild stories, controversies and community-dividing debates by providing timely release of crucially needed facts and information. In the absence of information, rumours can grow beyond expectation.

We are owed the facts by those who have them and we deserve them quickly. Failure to provide them is a bureaucratic failure as big as an open-pit mine.


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