COLUMBUS (TDB) -- The animal rights movement fought a pitched battle against state wildlife officials during much of the 20th Century to prohibit hunters from shooting mourning doves in Ohio. For nearly 80 years, doves were protected. From 1917 until 1975 there was a ban, then hunting was allowed in 1976, then it was closed again by court order until 1995. Debate about shooting the songbirds that symbolize peace became so heated by 1998 that Ohio held a statewide referendum. The birds lost.
Now the former Ohio Department of Natural Resources division of wildlife chief who is credited with lifting the hunting ban has been placed in the state's conservation hall of fame. John Pierce, of course, did more than lobby to classify doves as game birds. But that issue generated the most noise -- about 300,000 of the birds are killed in Ohio each year. Save the Doves -- the anti-hunting group -- lost at the polls 60-40 in November 1998.
Pierce's addition to the Hall of Fame -- a group whose prior honorees include Johnny Appleseed (John Chatman) -- was praised in a DNR press release:
"An avid sportsman and dedicated wildlife conservationist, Richard Pierce serves as the chief of the ODNR Division of Wildlife from 1991-1995. During that time increased the division's land holdings by nearly 50 percent, including the major acquisitions of the Egypt Valley and Woodbury state wildlife areas. As an advocated for wildlife diversity, he is credited with supporting innovative work on the research of butterflies and moths, freshwater mussels, peregrine falcons and neotropical birds. Pierce's leadership helped pass landmark legislation to create the first legal hunting season for the mourning dove and Sunday hunting in Ohio. Following his career with ODNR, he served as director of the U.S Sportsmen's Alliance and as the first director of the Great Lakes/Atlantic Regional Office for Ducks Unlimited."
There are about 475 million of so mourning doves in the U.S., and hunting doesn't seem to have hurt their numbers. It looks like the symbol of peace has managed to dodge most of the gunfire. The ODNR's announcement about the new Hall of Famers is here.
For the mourning doves' side of the story, this article in Chesapeake Style describes how the coo-cooing cousins of the passenger pigeon have managed to flourish across the United States.