Kentucky State Senator Seeks To Legalize Hawk Hunting Out Of Personal Vendetta


    On January 3, a Kentucky state senator proposed an amendment to the state’s wildlife codes that would prevent the imposition of penalties and fines by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife for the unpermitted killing of two native hawk species—red-tailed hawks and Cooper’s hawks. Currently, such actions are considered a federal crime under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, with violators facing significant fines and potential jail time. Both of these native species play vital roles in pest control and maintaining ecosystem balance.

    The amendment, known as Senate Bill 59, was introduced by Senator Gary Boswell, prompted by complaints from three constituents who experienced issues with hawks. One individual lost free-ranging chickens, another witnessed a hawk carrying off their cat, and the third was frustrated with hawks preying on songbirds at a backyard feeder. While these experiences were less than ideal for those affected, alternatives to killing hawks exist, such as using overhead materials for roaming chickens and emphasizing responsible cat ownership.

    Senator Boswell also mentioned his own encounters with birds on his property, expressing concerns about hawks attacking turkey poults. Although predation poses challenges for turkey populations in the Southeast, experts argue that killing hawks may not be the most effective solution. A Facebook post by Boswell, featuring a photo of what he believed to be hawks attacking turkey poults, was corrected by commenters who identified the birds as invasive European starlings, not hawks.

    Conservation groups and wildlife advocates are particularly concerned that Senator Boswell did not seek expert insight before proposing the amendment. Critics argue that elected officials should consult with experts and listen to those who are more knowledgeable on the subject. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed that they were not consulted about the bill and emphasized that it was not their initiative.

    Senator Boswell has clarified that he does not intend to advocate for a hunting season on hawks and claims to appreciate the species. His goal is to provide a solution for farmers, pet owners, and wildlife advocates dealing with issues such as livestock protection, defense against hawk attacks on domestic animals, and harassment of turkeys and songbirds. However, critics argue that existing measures, such as federal depredation permits and science-based hunting regulations, are already in place to address these concerns without resorting to the killing of native hawk species.