January 05, 2024
This week’s roundup of outdoors news and notes.
NRA Head Steps Down
Wayne LaPierre, longtime executive vice president for the National Rifle Association, has announced this week that he is stepping down from his position as the organization's chief executive. His resignation was accepted on Friday, Jan. 6 at the NRA Board of Directors meeting in Irving, Texas.
According to a news release from the NRA, LaPierre's resignation--which comes only days before a legal effort against him convenes in New York—is effective at the end of the month on Jan. 31. For now, the organization's head of general operations, Andrew Arulanandam, will step into the interim roles of CEO & EVP for the Fairfax, Va.-based organization.
"With pride in all that we have accomplished, I am announcing my resignation from the NRA," LaPierre said in a statement. "I’ve been a card-carrying member of this organization for most of my adult life, and I will never stop supporting the NRA and its fight to defend Second Amendment freedom. My passion for our cause burns as deeply as ever."
NRA President Charles Cotton pledged that the organization would continue to thrive in its defense of the Second Amendment. "On behalf of the NRA Board of Directors, I thank Wayne LaPierre for his service," said Cotton. "Wayne has done as much to protect Second Amendment freedom as anyone. Wayne is a towering figure in the fight for constitutional freedom, but one of his other talents is equally important: he built an organization that is bigger than him. Under the direction of Andrew Arulanandam, the NRA will continue to thrive – with a renewed energy in our business operations and grassroots advocacy. Our future is bright and secure."
Bird Flu Making More Sinister Waves
The avian flu outbreak that has plagued portions of North America and beyond for several years, continues to make its deadly presence felt.
Being observed in Europe since 2020, the outbreak has impacted every continent across the globe, including North America since early 2022. Missouri was one of the first hotspots, as our Outdoor Sportsman Group sister publication Wildfowl Magazine reported, and it has spread nationwide like wildfire since. In fact, over the last few years, millions of wild and domestic birds in at least 47 states have either succumbed directly to the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza virus or have been destroyed as a precaution to try and limit the virus' spread. The H591 HPAI virus continued to blitz its way through 2022, while also making news throughout all of 2023. And now, in early 2024, there’s even more to report on.
While the U.S. Department of Agriculture website hasn't shown any new HPAI detections so far in the New Year, it probably won’t be long. That seems likely after numerous detections came in December 2023 with positive cases in wild birds being confirmed in Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
For the record, those cases—and it’s pretty much nation-wide—were confirmed either through testing of hunter harvested waterfowl or through deceased birds being discovered and tested by biologists.
As of late, there's been more trouble again in the domestic bird industry with a million chickens being destroyed in recent weeks in the San Francisco Bay area of California; nearly 344,000 chickens being destroyed in Alabama; and trouble in Pennsylvania with HPAI detection at a game farm.
While the Center for Disease Control reports only a small number of sporadic cases of A(H591) infecting humans since 2022 (all associated with poultry exposures, by the way), the disease remains listed as widespread by CDC. And while human cases remain low, there have been reports in recent months of the virus affecting other mammals worldwide.
That includes the discovery of a dead polar bear sickened by the virus only days ago in Alaska and a dead lioness being observed last August at a Peruvian zoo.
While there have been no mass die-offs, the New York Times story on the dead polar bear—the first time the virus has been detected in the endangered polar bears of the Arctic—quotes Alaskan state veterinarian Dr. Bob Gerlach as saying that "The number of mammals reported with infections continues to grow.
Game & Fish Short Shots
While weather prognosticators are warning of a potentially severe arctic air mass invasion into much of the U.S. over the next several days, it’s probably too late to help waterfowl hunters in Wyoming where seasons are starting to wind down. In fact, waterfowlers in the Cowboy State have been complaining of subpar waterfowl hunting this season according to Mark Heinz of the Cowboy State Daily newspaper site. The reason? It’s been too warm and the ducks and geese have been staying up north. … Hunters down south in Arkansas are also singing the blues about a poor duck season in 2023-24. In fact, Jim Harris of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission indicated recently that a December aerial waterfowl survey by the AGFC biologists confirmed the news that the recent count is at a modern-day low in terms of both mallards, the bread-and-butter duck for Arkansas hunters, and duck overall. AGFC biologists did their transect-based surveys in the Delta last month, finding an estimated 449,860 total ducks and only 79,365 mallards. The AFGC news release notes that the Delta greenhead population estimate was “…roughly 250,000 ducks below the 2009-2023 long-term December average and the lowest December estimate since the inception of transect-based surveys in 2009.”