Some people will believe most anything
LAST WEEK, an email from a reader caught my eye:
"Being a lifelong hunter and fisherman, I have witnessed the expansion of deer, turkey and bear populations in the state. I grew up with only squirrels, rabbits and an occasional grouse to hunt, so I know what our [Division of Natural Resources] has accomplished over the years.
"The fishing in the Kanawha River has gone from bullheads and carp only to the full gamut of game fish. So, it's needless to say, I'm a fan of the DNR. They are human and can occasionally make a mistake, but in the long run they have done a marvelous job.
"That being said, I ask you to put to rest the rumors of them 'stocking' coyotes and rattlesnakes to control deer and turkey populations. I find these accusations totally insane.
"I know the coyote is probably the most adaptable animal in the country, and over the years has been migrating eastward.
"As for 'controlling' the turkey population with rattlesnakes, what kind of wacko could even conceive this? What do turkeys do to the environment to merit control by a poisonous pit viper?
"Timber rattlers are native to our hills and do have a place in the grand scheme of things, but to use them as a 'management tool' for a great bird that poses no problem has to be one of the most insane things I have ever heard.
"Maybe I should just slough off this stuff when I hear it, but my fear is for the other ears that hear this. Young people are very vulnerable to such things when they are spoken by folks supposedly in the know.
"So, John, how about telling it like it is to stifle these crazy rumors?"
Frankly, I doubt if anyone can stifle them.
People who believe officials of a state natural resources agency would willfully attempt to kill off their two biggest cash cows would believe most anything.
Such people seem genetically predisposed to believe any accusation, no matter how far-fetched, that hints that the DNR is up to no good.
Rumors that the DNR stocks mountain lions persist, even though the agency has a strict policy against the introduction of predators.
Heck, if someone started a rumor that the DNR had started stocking great white sharks in West Virginia's lakes to keep bass from overpopulating, some people would believe it.
In the 1990s, a writer named Jim Wilson wrote a column for a local paper that accused the DNR of stocking "abbagoochies," fierce creatures from Costa Rica that were supposed to rid the state of every undesirable thing from coyotes to multiflora rose.
Wilson wrote that the abbagoochies - which, for the record, are fictitious creatures that do not exist - had started preying on deer, bears and livestock. Panicked residents armed themselves and spent sleepless nights guarding their sheep and cows.
Wilson said he figured he could reel in a few folks with his hoax, simply because so many people are willing to believe the very worst when it comes to the DNR.
A few years back, I was getting a haircut and shooting the bull with the other patrons when the subject of deer came up.
"I know why we don't have any deer anymore," one fellow said. "I was hunting up in Hardy County when I saw a DNR truck back up and let out a load of hy-eenies."
"Hyenas?" I laughed. "African hyenas?"
"That's right! Hy-eenies!" the man countered. "No wonder we don't have any deer."
No doubt that this fellow told that same story to any number of people. No doubt some folks believed him.
There will always be wacky folks who believe wacky things. Let's accept it and move on.