HUNTING IN AMERICA - WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT
Welcome to Hunting in America. Today, in the second of our four part series, we will be discussing wildlife management. This is an essential function of hunting that helps us to better understand its importance to society. So what is wildlife management and what do we know about it? It is the maintenance of wildlife habitats and populations through the knowledge of several key factors, including population trends and what influences them, how animals interact with each other, how we as humans affect their environments, and how wildlife is affected by its surroundings. As we come to understand more about each of these questions, we can use that knowledge to maximize the potential of the surroundings to more positively influence animal populations. The key word is populations.
One criticism that animal extremists have of hunters is that they don’t respect the sanctity of life. That couldn’t be more off base. While individual animals may be expendable, the big picture result is more beneficial to their overall populations
(1). This is a practice that began very early on in the original colonies. As their first hunting expeditions were developing, so too was the realization that sharp declines in game animals were a direct result. There would need to be a better system for the settlers to get what they needed from wildlife without sacrificing the populations. One of the first hunting seasons was developed for deer around this time in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, and other areas would soon follow their lead. Time marched on and American society became more aware of the effect its actions would have on long term wildlife success. Numerous organizations popped up that helped to more clearly define the hunter’s role in wildlife management, the most prominent of these being the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These organizations help in the decision-making, but it is the implementation by individual hunters where it is truly accomplished. There is an established system in the U.S. in which the sales of hunting licenses, tags, and stamps provide the primary source of funding for conservation efforts in the country
(2). One of the more important programs put into place to assist development was the Pittman-Robertson Act. It creates an excise tax which helps states manage habitats. Not only does it directly benefit animals, but it funds studies that will help us to better acquire data on management of species, gives us knowledge of better hunting techniques through education programs, and even improves areas for non-hunters, such as hiking trails and campsites
(3). During hunting seasons, hunters spend a lot of money. This not only helps the economy, but a significant percentage of that money goes directly towards helping wildlife. It is our responsibility as stewards of the land and its inhabitants to take care of these populations. It is in our best interest to ensure that they live on so that future generations can enjoy their existence. However, we also must remain wary of the dangers that animal populations bring to society. Our safety would be compromised severely if they didn’t remain in check. For instance, every year 1.5 million collisions happen on roads in the U.S. just because of deer alone. This results in 200 deaths annually
(4). For every one of these collisions with deer, hunters remove six deer from the population. Now imagine how many more tragedies would occur if we could not regulate deer populations. Animal rights groups that want to end all hunting practices surely do not take this into account, or if they do, they would be willing to sacrifice human lives for animal lives. Safety is paramount to our concerns, but we also want to see these species thrive. The results of efforts made in our country prove that. Most other countries are seeing a sharp decline in wildlife populations, but the United States is succeeding where others are failing. The white-tailed deer population in 1900 was less than 500,000. Now, through coordinated efforts, it is more than thriving at an excellent 32,000,000! The same goes for most common species. Ducks and waterfowl were dwindling in 1900, but now are at an incredible 46,000,000. Even more key facts: (http://nssf.org/PDF/HunterFactCard.pdf)
Wildlife management continues to evolve over time. The way it is conducted now is fundamentally different from 100 years ago. Decades from now, it will be much different than it is today. The research being done, funded by hunters, to improve the process allows for new ideas to help shape the future. As long as there are people willing to fight for this logical practice, it will continue to be a huge asset to not only our safety and our environment, but also to the wildlife creatures and their long-term viability.