Showing Animals Respect & Kindness finds survivors two days later
ALTUS, Oklahoma––Shot and wounded but not dispatched at a pigeon shoot fundraiser for U.S. Senator James Inhofe on September 9, 2016, 28 banded racing or show pigeons were on Sunday, September 11, 2016 recovered alive by Showing Animals Respect & Kindness (SHARK) personnel from the brush where they fell and/or near the “dead piles” where they were left.
Finding a vet in the boondocks on a Sunday
Discovering the live pigeons after arriving at the scene to document the hundreds of dead pigeons left behind by Inhofe’s party, SHARK founder Steve Hindi and Kinship Circle cofounder Janet Enoch, working for SHARK since 2006, gathered up as many as they could catch and called ANIMALS 24-7 to ask where they could find an avian veterinarian in rural Oklahoma, hours from any city of size, on a Sunday afternoon.
Two hundred sixty miles to the east, near Hugo, Oklahoma, animal advocate Ruth Steinberger was dressed as a veterinary technician who doubles as a witch when ANIMALS 24-7 called her on behalf of SHARK to ask who might help the pigeons.
WildCare to treat pigeons
Steinberger, who is neither a veterinary technician nor a witch, had just finished acting in a pre-Halloween promotional video for an organization that operates spay/neuter clinics on Native American reservations and is an international leader in helping to develop non-surgical dog and cat sterilization methods.
Still in costume, Steinberger arranged for the WildCare wildlife rehabilitation center in Noble, Oklahoma to receive and treat the pigeons, and did not hesitate to do most of the driving.
400 miles of driving
Noble, just south of Oklahoma City, is 136 miles from Altus and 153 miles from Hugo. Altogether Steinberger committed herself to more than 400 miles of driving.
Leaving Enoch to tend the wounded pigeons in an Altus motel room, Hindi and another SHARK staffer returned to the pigeon shoot location to try to retrieve more wounded pigeons. There, Hindi told ANIMALS 24-7, he nearly stepped on a rattlesnake while discovering that the remaining pigeons were probably too far back into the brush to catch before nightfall.
Meanwhile a reporter from KFOR-Channel 4 of Oklahoma City had arrived, and was confronted by an unidentified man purporting to be the property owner.
Returning to Altus, the SHARK team relayed the 28 wounded pigeons they had already retrieved to Steinberger and began posting documentation of the evidence to web sites and Facebook. SHARK and Steinberger also hoped to trace the banded pigeons back to their owners, to find out if the pigeons were perhaps illegally trapped to be shot.
“Absolutely we are going to try to get a prosecution,” Hindi told ANIMALS 24-7. “This was cruelty to animals and, if Inhofe’s people try to say cruelty doesn’t apply because pigeons are game birds, it was abandoning wounded game. Whether we can get a prosecution is another matter,” Hindi acknowledged, “because this is Inhofe’s home territory.”
E-mailed Steinberger from WildCare, where founder Rondi Large scrambled near midnight to accommodate the incoming pigeons, “Most of the birds have broken bones and other serious injuries that will make flight impossible and for several the prognosis is grim.
WildCare will post further information on the survivors of the Inhofe pigeon shoot in the coming days.
No friend to animals
A former mayor of Tulsa, later an Oklahoma member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Inhofe has held a U.S. Senate seat since 1994.
As chair of the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works during the U.S. presidential administration of George W. Bush, 2003-2007, and as ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works, Inhofe may be best known for obstructing legislation meant to slow climate change, arguing that global warming is a hoax, pushing for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and to expand offshore oil and gas drilling.
Defending Donald Trump
Inhofe has also often opposed introducing or expanding protection for endangered and threatened species, including polar bears, prairie dogs, sage grouse, and wolves.
In addition, Inhofe has backed numerous Republican attempts to weaken the Endangered Species Act, and in 2008 assailed what he termed use of the Endangered Species Act on behalf of polar bears to “achieve global warming policy that special interest groups cannot otherwise achieve through the legislative process.”
Most recently––indeed on the very day of his September 9, 2016 pigeon shoot––Inhofe has defended to media Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s praise of Russian authoritarian president Vladimir Putin.
Used federal property
But Inhofe has been embarrassed before by SHARK exposés, beginning in September 2014, with undercover video of Inhofe himself shooting pigeons at his Ninth Annual “pigeon hunt” held to benefit “Friends of Jim Inhofe and the Fund For A Conservative Future.”
Other participants at the 2014 pigeon shoot were shown throwing banded captive-raised pigeons into the air to be shot, kicking wounded birds, and throwing them up to be shot again.
“After seeing the SHARK video, representatives from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation realized that the land Inhofe used was federally owned,” Hindi recounted.
“The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation investigated the property and discovered not only that Inhofe should never have been allowed to use the federal property to hold a political event,” Hindi said, “but that there were illegal hunting blinds set up and a massive commercial grade dump where garbage was burned.”
The Bureau of Reclamation on December 18, 2015 acknowledged to SHARK in writing that events such as the Inhofe pigeon shoots are “not allowed on federally owned land.”
The Bureau of Reclamation “made the parties remove the unauthorized hunting blinds and game feeders and clean up the burn pit,” Hindi said.
“However, no legal action was taken to hold anyone, including Senator Inhofe, accountable for the violations of federal law.
The U.S. Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, which Inhofe chairs, “has oversight of the same agencies that should have investigated” Inhofe, Hindi pointed out.
SHARK drone shot down
Hindi and SHARK had somewhat more success pursuing alleged violations of Oklahoma state law.
“In 2015,” Hindi said, “Inhofe was forced to drop his use of Oklahoma game wardens and county sheriff’s deputies as part of his shoot security.”
But one of Inhofe’s party shot down a SHARK drone.
“The shoot-down violated federal law,” Hindi charged, “but Greer County Sheriff Devon Huckabay refused to even allow his officers to respond. Oklahoma Public Safety Commissioner Michael Thompson, who is in charge of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, also refused to have anything to do with Inhofe’s [alleged] violations of state and federal law.”
Shut down shoot?
On September 9, 2016, the day the 28 banded pigeons were wounded, but two days before they were discovered, SHARK and Hindi believed they had “shut down the live pigeon shoot fundraiser,” they said in a media release.
Following a convoy of participants’ vehicles from the Quartz Mountain Lodge in Lone Wolf, Oklahoma, the pigeon shooters’ rendezvous point, despite the participants’ alleged attempts to lose or block the SHARK vehicle, the SHARK team navigated “10 miles of washboard dirt roads,” Hindi said, to find the shoot already underway.
Half as many shooters
But not for long.
“Once SHARK launched our Angel drone,” Hindi continued, “the shooting of birds stopped. Almost immediately vehicles started leaving. A trickle quickly became a flood,” documented on video. “This included the person who supplied the pigeons. He left with many still living birds in his vehicle. The entire pigeon shoot was over.
“In 2014,” Hindi recalled, “when our investigator was at the event undercover, the shoot lasted more than an hour and a half. Last year the same.
“This year, not only were there significantly fewer shooters than previous years, but it ended in half the time as the others. Clearly the pressure is on Inhofe and we will not be letting up.”
Inhofe had scheduled a “dove hunt” at a separate location for Saturday, September 10, 2016.
Because the SHARK team was documenting the “dove hunt” on video that day, they did not get back to the pigeon shoot site until a day later.