Sherwood's Notebook: Lionizing Cecil's Death

Cecil the lion is dead. His death is being uniquely lionized.

The Minneapolis dentist who shot him in a questionable, baited hunt in Zimbabwe went into hiding. Outraged citizens from around the world hounded him. He released a statement saying he now "deeply regrets" the killing.

It turns out Cecil was something of a national pet and symbol in Zimbabwe. We think the killing of Cecil likely won't fade in the news media nearly as fast as some of the massacres of people occurring here and around the world.

What's going to happen to the dentist? Did he knowingly participate in an illegal act? Will he face charges in Zimbabwe? Will the big world of hunt-for-sport suffer only short-term setbacks?

The only clear thing is that the media will be riveted for some time.

"The outrage is understandable," wrote Washington Post editorial writer Jo-Ann Armao last week, "That's not to suggest in any way that any harm should come to [to the dentist]; only that it's fitting that this big-time hunter might now know a little of what it is like to be on the other end of things."

Armao (full disclosure, a friend and former news colleague) noted that those of us "who are not hunters will never be able to understand the attraction of killing something as beautiful as this animal -- and paying $50,000 to do so. One can hope, though, that this travesty will cause those who do hunt to do some soul searching about their sport. And the rest of us need to ask ourselves the hard question of whether we would have cared about this lion if he didn't have a name."

■ What's in a name? Your Notebook is not a hunter. We are wary of wading into the endless controversy over the efficacy and morality of sport hunting.

The Cecil controversy prompted us to take a look at hunting regulations in Maryland and Virginia. Our online search overwhelmed us with rules, laws, regulations, licenses, fees, timetables, weapon restrictions, age limits and whether or when you have to wear safety orange. Similarly, there are reams of information and guidelines for fishing, which is just another form of hunting.

None of the hunted prey -- birds, bears, deer, ducks, to name only a few -- has an individual name like Cecil. They all are "wild." Anti-hunting activists campaign against "killing Bambi," but not to much effect.

But words do matter. You have to know that animals in Maryland, Virginia and other states aren't "hunted." Officially, they are "harvested."

In Virginia, you can read all about the "Virginia Wildlife Harvest Information Program." Find it at For Maryland, hunting or harvesting guidelines are found at

"Harvested" certainly sounds less bloody. It evokes for most the fall season of reaping hay or corn on a farm. But it also means stalking other animals, lying in wait for them to come into target focus with either your rifle or archery bow.

Neither state allows hunters to "bait" fields to attract animals, another issue in the Zimbabwe incident. Of course, fishing is the ultimate baited sport.

On the Virginia site, there is an appeal for hunters to follow the many rules to ensure safety and fair play -- but is it "fair play" when one side is armed and the other isn't? "Don't allow the actions of a few outlaws to tarnish the reputation of Virginia's sportsmen and sportswomen!" the site implores.

Both states have contact information online to report any hunting violations. In Maryland, you can call 1-800-635-6124 to anonymously report poachers and possibly receive a cash reward. In Virginia, the number is 1-800-237-5712.

In Maryland, the website notes the upcoming black bear season and declares, "to take a wild black bear is a true achievement."

The site reports that black bears were not legal to hunt until 2004, ending a 51-year ban.

In 2004, the state granted 200 permits out of 2,272 requested, and 20 bears were reported killed. A decade later in 2014, there were 450 permits issued out of 3,631 applications. In the four-day season allowed, 69 bears were reported killed.

The Notebook says "reported," because it's not clear what fines or penalties occur if you don't report a killing.

Yes, we said killing, not harvesting. We'll leave the euphemisms to others.

■ No debate about it. This is a big week nationally for the GOP. Leading presidential contenders will gather Thursday for the first debate of the season. It could be a doozy if other candidates try to rile Donald Trump into one of his tantrums. If he doesn't take the bait, it might be a dud.

■ D.C. GOP choice? The small but energetic GOP in the District had a recent candidate poll. The winner was Ben Carson, who captured 45 percent of the vote to 17 percent for Jeb Bush and 11 percent for Marco Rubio. All the other candidates trailed significantly. Trump had only 3.5 percent. Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum were shut out; no one voted for them.

It was a small sample. Only 200 D.C. Republican voters participated out of 28,500 registered. D.C. GOP executive director Patrick Mara said a small but diverse group took part in the poll. "We are very pleased with the participation," Mara said.

■ Don't miss this. Comedian John Oliver made the best statehood argument ever in his HBO show. It's available on YouTube here. (Caution: some "bad" words).

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

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