A bird shooting fundraiser for an Oklahoma senator has an animal rights group’s feathers rustled.
The group, Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, or SHARK, posted a video on its YouTube channel Monday showing undercover footage of what the group calls “cruelty, cowardice, corruption” in the name of raising money for Republican Sen. James Inhofe’s reelection campaign.
According to animal rights activists, the fundraiser held the weekend of Sept. 5 not only included the senseless maiming and killing of pigeons, but also a misappropriation of public funds. SHARK claims Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation officers and the Kiowa County Sheriff’s Department had a presence on the grounds of the Quartz Mountain Lodge in Lone Wolf, but it’s unknown what capacity the officers were in attendance.
The video’s narrator, Steve Hindi, also the founder and president of SHARK, further claims the agencies were providing private security for the event. In the video, two vehicles — one sheriff’s patrol car and a black SUV are seen flanking the entrance to a road. It’s unknown if the road led to the fundraiser, but SHARK claims officers were checking participants as they entered because the senator’s party was on the lookout for activists.
A sheriff’s department staffer told Guns.com that Sheriff Bill Lancaster declined to comment “at this time,” but that he was aware of the matter.
Department of Wildlife Lt. Jeff Headrick was at the fundraiser for an unknown amount of time, but he said he wasn’t there in an official capacity and happened to be on the grounds at the same time as the event.
“We weren’t there for the pigeon shoot,” Headrick told Guns.com. “Our department does some PR stuff … and we were there with a step trailer, so we do different things for different organizations all the time.”
In the middle of the field, workers under a canopy were surrounded by crates of pigeons and tossed the birds in the air for participants to fire on them. Some of the pigeons wore bands on their feet, indicating the birds weren’t ferrel, according to SHARK. The video claims many of the birds were tame and showed one being “easily” picked up by a participant who threw it into the air.
It’s still unclear whether Headrick is the game warden shown in SHARK’s undercover video, which shows the profile of a man in uniform.
“They’re not considered wildlife, so they’re out of the Wildlife Department’s jurisdiction. As far as what kind of pigeon they were, I really can’t tell you,” Headrick said.
Bryan Wilkerson, a Department of Wildlife supervisor who was not present at the senator’s fundraiser but watched a video on the news, said as far as he saw there was nothing illegal about what the shooters were doing.
“What I saw was pigeons,” Wilkerson said. “We have morning doves and we have white-winged doves, but I did not see either of those in that video. Everything they had there looked like a banded bird. … We do not regulate the taking of a pigeon.”
Inhofe or his staff could not be reached for comment by story publication.