No one is more aware of the need for wildlife conservation than hunters. Literally, their entire sport depends on healthy animal population levels that sustain into the future. Unfortunately, there seems to be a bit of a misconception that hunters aren’t conservationists and are just interested in killing. We’re here to set the record straight.
The reality is that the exact opposite is true – many hunters are huge conservationists because they see it as a method to sustaining the sport they love. In fact, by the numbers, hunters are the largest conservation group in the country. But this also raises a question – what exactly is the hunter’s role in wildlife conservation?
Hunting as an act of Conservation
Hunting itself is an act of conservation that helps to keep animal populations in check. Without science based bag limits many animal populations would continue to expand, unchecked, until they rose to the level of overpopulation. With overpopulation comes other issues like disease, malnutrition, etc. – it’s not good.
Additionally, every fall and winter millions of hunters hit the woods in pursuit of game and send back valuable information to wildlife managers on topics ranging from population size to disease presence. Without hunters taking game, checking game, and sending samples of the game we would have much less clear idea of what was happening to animal populations.
A great example of data being collected by hunters is the use of bands on waterfowl. Each year wildlife managers go out, capture, and band ducks and geese with small metal bands around their feet that contain identifying information. Hunter inevitably kill some of those birds each fall and winter and send the identifying information back to wildlife managers. The collected data gives researchers an idea of the migratory patterns of the birds which in turn allows them to better manage populations.
Donations of Time and Resources
Hunters spend more time and money on wildlife conservation than any other group in the United States. From buying licenses, to donating time, and anything in between hunters are actively involved in the sustainability of our wildlife and other natural resources.
In fact, a recent study by fishandwildlife.org showed that, while conservation funding comes from a diverse source, the largest single contributor of that source is through license sales (i.e. hunting and fishing licenses). That’s larger than taxpayer contributions, grants, and trusts combined.
There is no question about it, without hunters in the woods the US would struggle to maintain the level of wildlife management that we have today.
Outside of monetary contribution, hunters are also dedicated to maintain wildlife habitat. Each year thousands of hunters hit the woods with the single intention of leaving it in a better place than they found it. That means improving habitat to allow for wildlife to flourish, cleaning up wildlife areas and waterways, providing resources to allow for better access, and the list goes on (There are WAY to many non-monetary contributions that could be listed, so we will stop here).
The Future of Conservation Resources
Unfortunately, the number of hunters is on a downward trend. Over the last 5 years it is estimated that the annual number of hunters hitting the woods has dropped by roughly 2 million. To put that into perspective, it’s also estimated that over the last 50 years the number of hunts has been cut in half and that the 50% reduction has lead to a loss of $10 billion in funding.
This gap has lead wildlife managers scrambling for a way to continually do more with less. It also means that as outdoors men and women, our conscious efforts and decisions mean more now than they ever have.
At the bare minimum, keep buying licenses each year. If you have a few dollars to spare buy a duck stamp as well – 98% of each duck stamp goes directly to conservation. If money is tight, donate some time to cleaning and improving habitat.
At the end of the day, the hunter’s role in wildlife conservation is a critical one and we must not forget that.
Want more information? Head over to our Conservation Community to join the conversation today!