Confusion over organization name sparks reaction by hunters

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First published: Monday, December 3, 2001

A New York group's proposal to cancel hunting season lest armed terrorists use it to run amok has caused a cross-country flap for a Colorado government agency with the same name.

Wildlife Watch is a nonprofit volunteer group in New Paltz that incorporated in New York in 1997, although it traces its roots to the 1975 founding of one of its divisions, the Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting.

Wildlife Watch also is the name of a Colorado Division of Wildlife program started in 1988. It is neutral on hunting, according to its director, Harv Teitelbaum, but educates people on "nonconsumptive'' enjoyment of wildlife, holding workshops on how to find and observe animals, and taking people on field trips.

The problem started when the New York group suggested recently that the state cancel hunting season, depicting it as an opportunity for terrorists to pose as hunters.

At least one upset New York hunter searched the Internet for the group but instead found the Colorado agency, Teitelbaum said. (The Colorado agency's web site is closer to the name, http://www.wildlifewatch.net, than the New York group's: http://www.wildwatch.org).

All this puts the Colorado program in a spot. Its parent agency is supported in part by hunting fees. Wildlife Watch has proven so popular that other states call about it and there is talk of a nationwide network. Teitelbaum worries about having his program confused with an anti-hunting group.

"We might even ask them to change their name,'' he said.

Anne Muller of Wildlife Watch in New York said she's gotten plenty of reaction too, ranging from angry to obscene and even threatening. While she said she doesn't believe it's representative of the general public, she found some justice in a state agency that relies on hunting fees getting a taste of what her group deals with. "Now they know what their constituency is,'' she said.
 

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