Oregon is next state to ban 'cyberhunting'

Internet hunting is all but over in Oregon, before it even got started.

The Oregon House of Representatives on Monday unanimously passed Senate Bill 490, which sets in motion a ban the killing of animals over the Internet here.

The Senate also unanimously passed the bill on April 5. It now goes to Gov. Ted Kulongoski to sign.

The bill requires the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to write rules that would prohibit anyone in the state from using the World Wide Web or closed-circuit media to remotely control a weapon used to shoot animals here.

The bill was in response to a Texas man's now aborted Internet business of having participants shoot live exotic animals using remote-controlled cameras and a gun stationed on a platform at a Texas game ranch in 2005.

Only one man — a quadriplegic man from Indiana — shot an animal over the Internet at the time, but the cyberhunting issue touched off a firestorm of debate about the ethics of such practices.

Support for the bill came from animal-rights activists like the Humane Society of the United States and hunting groups like Safari Club International.

The state's largest hunting organization, the Oregon Hunters Association, did not take a position on the bill.

Internet-hunting "sets a horrible precedent and so removed people from the killing process that it makes it seem almost like a video game," said Kelly Peterson, HSUS's Portland-based campaign issues coordinator. "I think the legislators, hunters and non-hunters understood that.

"As technology advances, this is good public policy to get on the books now," Peterson said. "You never know who could take advantage of it."

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists have taken advantage of the public discussions this spring to write draft rules for the Internet hunting ban.

Larry Cooper, the ODFW's assistant Wildlife Division administrator, said his agency is planning to bring that draft language to the commission at its June 8 meeting in Salem.

"It could be in place as early as the first of July," Cooper said. "Certainly, it will be in the next regulations, which will be printed in December for 2008."

The cyberhunting issue was born in late 2004 by John Lockwood, a repair estimator at a San Antonio car-body shop who set up the camera and remote-controlled gun at a Texas ranch.

The plan was for out-of-area hunters to pay a fee, then log onto a Web site where they would manipulate a camera and a gun to hunt a specific animal on the ranch. The hunts were advertised through a now-defunct Web site. The offer drew media interest throughout North America, spawning efforts to ban the practice on state levels throughout the country.

Quadriplegic Dale Hagberg was the only person to shoot an animal using the system, Lockwood told the Mail Tribune when the Oregon bill was introduced.

After nearly 30 hours of staring at a computer screen, an exotic mouflon ram came into range and was shot by Hagberg, who operated the gun remotely by using his mouth to manipulate a joy stick from his Indiana bed.

Lockwood said the shot was fired in November 2005, just before Texas' ban on cyberhunting went into effect.

Lockwood said he never considered the practice unethical and likened it to shooting high-powered rifles with laser sights from blinds.

Oregon had remained one of a handful of states where the practice remained legal. Most states quickly banned the concept after hearing of Lockwood's plans.

Five other states are currently considering bans similar to the Oregon ban. Already, Idaho, Arkansas and Iowa passed Internet hunting bans this year.

Oregon's cyberhunting ban would have happened in 2005 had a late amendment to the bill not lead to its defeat. The original bill enjoyed broad support until an amendment to re-instate hound hunting for cougars was attached.

The amendment was added to Senate Bill 389 at the request of a Safari Club International lobbyist who helped draft both measures. It later died in the Senate.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com

Share This Story