Saturday, March 06, 2010

Rainsongs and Bounty Hunters

At this point the Daniel Dean Hepperle (alias Dan Rainsong) affair seems to be fading in to the archives of ignominy, where it belongs; let's hope no ill-advised future actions or pronouncements kick any new life in to it. But before it goes away entirely, think there is one major lesson that should be taken from it and acted upon immediately by those in a position to do so:

Withdraw any and all offers of cash rewards for Ivorybill info. Now. Today. Yesterday, if possible.

This strategy has felt unsavory from the very beginning. In the end, I think it is clear that it has been ineffective at best and probably counterproductive overall. It has not had the desired effect of encouraging sincere outdoorsmen and -women to reveal honest information. What it has done is apparently draw in an unseemly element of treasure hunters whose motivations are anything but sincere and trustworthy. Take Daniel Rainsong, as the most prominent example. This is a man who has trafficked in stolen birds and (allegedly) had his own mother declared incompetent so he could immediately clean out her life's savings to blow on his own personal ventures, including a "lawn care business." This same lawn care business has (allegedly) taken low-bid contracts and failed to follow through with the contracted work. Seriously, would you hire this person to unplug your toilet, if you knew his background? I doubt it. So why, then, should we encourage him and others like him to waste the time and resources of real government and academic scientists while he attempts to swindle cash from them?

Please, rescind the rewards and abolish the Bounty Hunters right now.


At 9:30 AM, Blogger cyberthrush said...

Especially since the reward is offered by an "anonymous" source (not taxpayer money) I see no problem with it. It is just one more tool, and a fairly routine one, for attaining info that might not otherwise come forth... somewhat remarkable really that (so far as I'm aware) the Rainsong incident is the only ill-case thus far resulting from it. There have probably been more fraudulent claims made for the sheer fun/prankishness of doing so than for the reward.

At 7:09 AM, Blogger fangsheath said...

I agree with Bill, this approach has proven unproductive at best. I am still unclear as to whether Rainsong intends to pursue litigation over the refusal of relevant authorities to follow up on his claim. One wonders what unsavory ideas his adventures have stimulated in others.

The serious searchers out there, who continue their work with neither compensation or accolades, have long understood that documenting this bird involves sacrifices, not profts. Of course it is possible that another David Kulivan or Gene Sparling will get lucky and get some images this time. There are plenty of such folks out there who will be more than willing to come forward in the absence of a reward. The main problem in the past was that most such reports weren't taken seriously. That is simply not the case now.

At 8:51 AM, Blogger cyberthrush said...

Again, Rainsong's effort should make it apparent to any hoaxers how foolish it is to seek the reward in a fraudulent way.
It ought be clear by now how incredibly difficult documenting this species is -- those who attempt the difficult groundwork to do it, I believe, fully deserve a monetary reward (I'll grant that $50,000 seems a bit steep, but so be it since it's coming from a private source).
The more that public lands are searched without success, the more important it becomes to get cooperation from private landowners (who are often quite anti-Fed), and the reward is one means of doing so.
If hoaxes were happening right and left, then yeah, the reward would be a problem; as it is, I think the pluses far outweigh the minuses.

At 9:15 AM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

Cy --

The proof is in the pudding. Can you name one single legitimate datum that has come to light because of the reward offers? I cannot; not even a rumor of such a thing. As for Rainsong being an example of the foolishness of such an endeavor that will discourage others from attempting the same; yeah, THAT has worked well in the past! More likely future treasure hunters will learn from him a list of mistakes not to make and convince themselves they can do it right.

A lot of academically minded people just have no clue about the existence, nature, and thought processes of the large number of people out there who are bent on get rich quick schemes, petty crime, and a moral system based on "get mine and f*** anyone who stands in my way." I know these people all too well. The smell of money is like honey to flies for them.

Remember the old joke, man in bar goes up to strange woman and asks "would you sleep with a celebrity for $100,000,000?" After much hemming and hawing she answers,"Wow, I could do so much good with that much money, yes, I guess I would." Then he asks, "Would you sleep with me for $200?" She responds in anger "Of course not! What sort of woman do you think I am?" He answers "We already established that, now we're just haggling over price."

Someone who is chasing Ivorybills with any thoughts of a cash reward in their head is a bounty hunter, pure and simple. Bounty hunters have in general a poor track record for ethics.

At 7:22 AM, Blogger John Franklin said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 9:34 AM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

No anonymous comments on controversial Ivorybill matters, especially when you are going to accuse Cornell, the Nature Conservancy, and NPR of engaging in a premeditated swindle. Sign your name or an acceptable surrogate (everyone involved knows who fangsheath and cyberthrush are) or your comments will be deleted. If you are going to accuse people of malfeasance you should have the guts to let them know who their accusers are. I don't cater to anonymous bullying here. Bullies must show their faces. This is a long-standing policy here.

At 2:06 PM, Blogger prairiewolf said...

I'll state it publicly...Right now. Should Project Coyote succeed in obtaining conclusive documentation of a living Ivory-billed Woodpecker and become eligible for any reward(s), taxes will be paid, a few promises honored, and any other proceeds will be donated to a charity/worthy NGO to be decided upon by majority vote of the Team.


At 2:28 PM, Blogger cyberthrush said...

Don't want to beat a dead horse, but the criteria for receiving a reward is VERRRY HIGH: leading officials to a living IBWO; almost requires leading to a nest, though there are other ways. I admire Frank's intentions, but given the monumental achievement this would now represent, I still believe reward is fully in order and justified, and a significant incentive to some for making the honest effort (to me it's a non-issue).

At 2:36 PM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

a significant incentive to some for making the honest effort spite of the facts that clearly show it has had no such effect. Not one single shred of information produced because of the reward offer. Not one single competent and honest searcher motivated to go in to the swamps by the reward offer. At least one fully dishonest and disreputable person motivated to forgery because of the reward offer.

I'm an empiricist in all things. The evidence is clear. Dump the reward.

At 5:03 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Bill, I agree 100%. The reward only serves to encourage the Rainsongs of this world, and their schemes are distractions that reflect badly on those of us who are doing our honest best to document the species, at considerable personal expense and with no expectations.

At 5:42 PM, Blogger cyberthrush said...

So do we make searchers sign pledges saying they will not write books, make speaking engagements, be involved in documentary films, or otherwise profit from any discovery ('cuz it would be so shameful)?
One idiot who misunderstood the reward does not make for 'empirical' evidence. Indeed, according to others, the only empirical evidence we have says that spending $10 million and 5 yrs. on this has been a complete waste of time.
I'm gettin' annoyed here, don't make me release the flying monkeys... ;-)

At 5:49 PM, Blogger prairiewolf said...

I'm melllltiiinnnggggg....

At 2:48 AM, Blogger Mark said...

Rainsong aside, it's a very poor allocation of resources, unless of course they never have to pay it. I'd much rather see the money spent on small grants to independents (a thousand dollars can be an enormous help) or better yet on equipment – quality camera trap systems spring immediately to mind; $50,000 would buy something like 20 of those – that could be loaned out. With better remote cams, the question of existence would likely have been settled some time ago.


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