Can hunting help conservation? Although anti-hunting activists believe otherwise, hunters do in fact support and contribute extensively to wildlife conservation in many ways.
Those opposed to hunting, argue that the wild animal you have just taken down, was surely not being conserved. True, but they might just be missing the bigger picture.
Theodore Roosevelt, being a passionate hunter himself, stated that wild animals only continue to exist when looked-after by sportsmen. They play the most important roles in keeping the larger and more valuable wild creatures from total extermination.
Additionally, hunters can be seen as the driving force behind funding many of our conservation efforts, because most of us know that it usually is the ones with the most to lose who will fight the hardest to protect it.
So let’s then take a look at the bigger picture.
Statistical evidence collected in 2016, indicates that 101.6 million Americans—40 percent of the U.S. population 16 years old and older in 2016 are hunters.
Funds are generated from excise taxes on hunting, shooting, archery and angling equipment, boating fuels, hunters, recreational shooters, and anglers.
Surely their contributions toward funding wildlife projects must be enormous, which indeed it is. According to the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, sportsman-generated funds contribute more than 75 percent of a state fish and wildlife agency’s annual budget.
It is indicated that they have contributed more than $20.2 billion for wildlife and habitat conservation since 1937, including $1.1 billion in 2018.
The collection of funds for wildlife conservation is defined in the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act or the Pittman-Robertson Act. Hereby, revenue from an excise tax on firearms, ammunition and other related equipment, is allocated to state wildlife agencies to be used for projects such as wildlife conservation and the education of hunters.
Funds are allocated for:
- Conducting wildlife research;
- Enhancing habitat of wild animals;
- Managing and maintaining parks and wildlife refuges;
- Conducting surveys and research to determine the status of game;
- Specific wildlife management programs;
- Purchasing lands to offer opportunities for hunting.
Specific environmental and conservation projects have gained tremendously from such taxes and funds.
According to the Department of the Interior (DOI), hunters are a significant driving force behind the funding of our conservation projects. A few such examples are the all too familiar extinction of the passenger pigeon, the near eradication of the bison and many migratory bird species in the early 1900s. This opened the eyes of all Americans to the impacts that humans could have on wildlife. In order to ensure that there would indeed be animals to hunt in the future, hunters began to support programs that helped conserve and maintain species and wildlife habitat.
The Duck Stamp, (formally called the Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp), is a requirement for obtaining a license for waterfowl hunting. By purchasing this stamp, hunters help to protect and restore habitat for migratory waterfowl and other birds and wildlife.
A significant amount of every dollar spent on a Duck Stamp goes directly to purchasing or obtaining vital habitat or conservation easements within the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Almost 6 million acres of habitat have been conserved with the help of Duck Stamp funds since 1934.
Favorable Hunting Environment
We all prefer to hunt in favorable conditions, and in order to achieve this, it is important to keep our wild habitats clean, undamaged and as natural as possible. Of course, having uncontaminated habitats is a necessity not only for hunters, but for ecologists, hikers, bird-watchers and even wildflower viewers too.
Although each of these groups has different interests and therefore different perspectives on what is necessary to have the wild habitats preserved for their specific needs, they all have one major vision or goal – well-preserved, healthy ecosystems.
In order to attain this goal, it is important for hunters and all other groups interested in wildlife recreation, to join hands in contributing to environmental prosperity.
Another way in which hunters contribute to wildlife conservation is by establishing nonprofit groups. An excellent example is the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
They have set out a list of 25 excellent reasons why hunting is conservation. We list a few of the contributions hunters have made to conservation:
- The elk population has increased from 41,000 in 1907, to more than 1 million currently.
- Funding from hunters helped RMEF to restore wild elk herds in seven states and provinces.
- There are now more than 32 million whitetails as opposed to only 500,000 in 1900.
- There are now more than 7 million turkeys, compared to the 1000,000 in 1900.
- In 1901 ducks were almost extinct, now there are more than 44 million.
- Numbers of pronghorns increased from 12,000 in 1950 to more than 1.1 million today.
- Hunters contribute to habitat, research and wildlife law enforcement of non-hunted species.
- $796 million a year are contributed toward conservation programs.
- Through groups such as RMEF hunters contribute $440 million a year toward conservation.
- In total, hunters contribute more than $1.6 billion a year to conservation.
- Wildlife populations are balanced by hunting.
- Growing numbers of predators, for example, cougars, wolves, coyotes, and bears, are managed by hunting.
- Hunting supports 680, 000 jobs such as game wardens, biologists, motel clerks and waitresses.
A Decline in Hunters Threatens How the U.S. Pays For Conservation
The inevitable question remains: “will a decline in hunters have a negative impact on conservation?”
Before we attempt to answer this, let’s look at the statistical indications of hunters in the US.
A survey conducted by the U.S. Wildlife Services indicates that a significantly small percentage of citizens older than 16 years are actively involved in hunting. They show that it is only half of what it was 50 years ago.
While the number of hunters is declining, other wildlife-focused activities, such as photography, birdwatching and hiking seem to be growing.
So will this influence the funding of wildlife conservation?
Yes, unfortunately, it will have a negative impact on wildlife conservation, and for obvious reasons too.
We have already established that the country’s wildlife conservation systems are closely related to funding from sportsmen. Taxes collected from guns, ammo, and licenses work on a user-pay, user-play system.
Consequently, when there is a decrease in the number of “players,” we can expect the funding to decrease too.
Fortunately, Congress is looking at tapping funds from oil and gas revenues and some states are even implementing additional general sales taxes for this purpose.
Trophy Hunting: is it counter-productive as a conservation tool?
According to scientists, trophy hunters automatically attribute a higher value to the largest, rarest species or animals. Additionally, they will target those animals with the biggest horns, tusks or manes.
Now, looking at nature, this goes directly against all laws of survival of the fittest. When nature is left to be, predators take down the weakest and slowest ones. The strong, largest males survive because they have inherited the strongest genes. In time they will pass this down. It all comes down to natural selection – which is an integral part of ecosystems.
Since trophy hunters target the strongest, biggest males, it poses a serious threat to the survival of the entire species as the weakest, slowest animals are left behind to reproduce.
How the science of deer hunting can help patients with diabetes
A truly amazing research paper was presented in Dallas in 2014 at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.
Since deer have such advanced smelling, (check out our article about deer scent control) hunters go to great lengths to reduce and eliminate human body odors of any kind. Research on scent control of deer hunters leads to ways to analyze and identify VOC’s (volatile organic compounds).
VOCs are odors which are emitted through the skin and breath. They consist of a combination of hundreds of compounds given off by bacteria which lives in our body and on our skin.
Once researchers on scent control for deer hunting have identified possible odors, they can go a step further and identify the specific odors which deer are most sensitive to.
The same analytical methods and algorithms used by deer researches to identify such odors or scents can consequently be used by chemical and medical researches to identify the odors emitted by type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetics when their blood sugar levels change.
Since dogs have an advanced sense of smelling similar to that of deer (the nose of a whitetail deer has up to 297 million olfactory receptors, dogs have 220 million), they are effectively trained and used to smell such changes in specific odors in diabetics.
Now, if the different odors of high blood sugar, normal blood sugar, and low blood sugar can be isolated by deer hunting scent control research, then dogs could be trained to distinguish between these odors.
Dogs, however, are expensive, require a great deal of attention and need to rest and sleep too.
The solution is to use the data and algorithms developed by deer hunting scent control research, to develop and calibrate a scientific device which diabetics will wear 24/7 to detect specific variations in body odor or more specifically in varying blood sugar levels.
The diabetic’s life may now be saved, as he or she will be warned in advance to have something to eat or inject himself with insulin. This will inevitably result in fewer visits to the ER because of a diabetic coma.