F&W: Anti-hunters shows ugly side on social media

by Maria Gigliello, Vermont Fish & Wildlife

“They [Vermont Fish and Wildlife] need to be dispatched (tortured, beaten) the same way [as a trapped animal].”

“You’re no better than the Ku Klux Klan.”

“Bunch of in-breds out there just shooting animals for fun. Great job Vermont Fish and Wildlife!!!”

“Why any girl finds this fun [hunting] is beyond me…she must not have maternal instincts.”

These are just some of the social media comments that the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Information team sees on a regular basis. As the department’s social media leads, Joshua Morse and I get a front row seat to the good, the bad and the ugly emotions that the department’s work brings to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I write this piece as a reminder that despite the public’s varying feelings on the work we do at Vermont Fish and Wildlife, there is always a place for kindness.

Maria Gigliello

Probably due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve seen a shift in the long-term trends of our social media audiences. More people are at home and online, therefore making them more observant and engaged with wildlife management decisions in the state. People are also interacting more with each other online and that separation from person to person by a screen has increased boldness in people—boldness in their comments to us and each other.

When people who feel strongly about wildlife conservation hit “send” on a comment that calls department staff or other commenters rude names, threatens us, undermines our work, personally attacks us, etc., there are always actual people on the other end of that comment reading it. These hateful comments are very concerning and do not accomplish anything positive.

One of the department’s outreach goals is to use our social media platforms as educational tools. Teachers, students and other educational groups use our social media channels to learn about Vermont’s wildlife. We see the value in making the natural world accessible to all. However, we often receive comments that are wildly inappropriate for young eyes. Comments such as, “Hey look the hunting idiot is back to showcase he provides nothing to Vermont wildlife but the brute force rifle he backs next to his tiny pecker.” We work hard to make our social media channels welcoming to all and we want to keep our channels welcoming to all. 

Apart from the mental and emotional distress that daily hostile comments bring to department staff, this behavior raises concerns regarding our physical safety as these comments can translate to the real world. In July, Oregon Public Broadcasting published an article on how Oregon’s natural resource staff face violent threats, including attack dogs and gunfire, in the field. In 2019, violent threats caused Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife to cancel informational wolf management meetings. And in 2019, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that public land employees were faced with threats that ranged from phone harassment to attempted murder.

This is a reality that many Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department biologists are aware of and fear. While luckily no physical harm has come to our staff, it is an anxiety that lingers in the back of our minds, especially when we consistently experience aggressive and sinister language directed against the department on social media. We need to be able to do our jobs without fearing for our safety.

If you want to help make our social media a more welcoming place for everyone and push back against the disturbing behavior that has become more common on these platforms, this fall is a good time to think about how to be a better member of Vermont’s online conservation community. As our commissioner has stated in the past, conserving wildlife requires respecting each other’s different values and opinions.

We have noticed an increase in online hostility when hunting and trapping seasons start. It is that time of year again and we ask that visitors of our social media channels approach each other with tolerance despite their varying viewpoints. Whether you are with an advocacy group, a hunter, a trapper, an angler or just an admirer of wildlife we all want to see the ecological systems of our state thrive. I am certain that we will not achieve this common goal by being cruel to one another.

The author joined the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department in 2022. She is originally from Upstate New York and holds an M.S. in Environmental Education from Antioch University New England. Maria is responsible for communicating the department’s work to the public through written, photo, video, and social media content. She also assists in graphic design work for the department’s publications. Outside of work, Maria enjoys hiking, running, paddling, fishing, reading, and baking.

Categories: Commentary, Media

7 replies »

  1. It is unfortunate that there are a lot of angry people out there in cyberville that feel they have no control over their own world and voice their hatefulness on others to make themelves feel better. In this upheaval in our country and world I’m afraid it will continue to grow.
    I feel if people just worked or had some meaning to life it would help them in their anger and learn how to control what they say and do. Unfortunately there are too many that have neither today, and act out on social media because it’s easier to say than facing someone!
    I think if this were four or five years ago it wouldn’t be happening now.

  2. You come to Vermont where hunting is a tradition and way of life for many and think you know better? Stfu and go back to the toilet state you left.

  3. What…just because I’ve got a tiny pecker (direct quote from the article) I’m supposed to use a little gun to fill my freezer with meat?

  4. Dear Ms. Gigliello,
    First, my instinct is to apologize for my generation which raised the current generation of morons who do most of the posting on social media. Not all, but most. It is reprehensible to me that this situation is tolerated. That being said, I do firmly believe in the first amendment. I just also believe in honor, dignity and civility. I can easily express my opinion in a way that while pointed and maybe unpleasant, hopefully is not soul disturbing. Of course, these days, using the wrong pronoun could cause someone to take their own life, or so I’ve been told.
    Your department can make a stand and if poor language or threats are made, that person is banned from the site. I understand it’s a government agency, but you have rights too. As a nurse, I have been the recipient of violent acts from patients, family and other staff both physical and verbal for my entire career of almost forty years. And we were never allowed to file charges or heck, even complain. I know many nurses and healthcare workers who are permanently disabled due to violent attacks from patients. So my heart goes out to you all. I wish I could do something more than offer support. Just remember, their comments say a whole lot more about them then it says about you. They don’t know you well enough for it to be personal. I had to use that logic repeatedly over my career. I hope it helps some for you and the staff at Vermont Fish and Wildlife. I think your work is important and valuable.
    Pam Baker

    • Talk about “maternal instincts,” I always have to wonder if those who cry so loudly against hunting and trapping because of how barbaric, brutal, and inhumane, they claim them to be, and how they violate animal rights are the very same ones who loudly insist on a mother’s purported “right” to kill her own child in her womb?

  5. The commenters to the Department of Fish and Wildlife regarding hunting are obviously uneducated, overly-medicated, emotionally and intellectually stunted. They likely spend little time, if any, in the woods because the ticks, the bears, the moose, Sasquatch, or Slenderman might kill them! Sad, but true.