A Hunter’s Role in Wildlife Conservation
Contrary to what many people think, hunting actually has a positive effect on the environment and helps keep a balance in local biota. Now, of course, hunting a species to extinction is certainly not going to help it, but responsible hunting of species that are overpopulated, invasive, or destructive to the surrounding flora and fauna is extremely beneficial.
In some cases, the population of natural predators has been decimated and game populations have become out of control. When game populations skyrocket it has a knock-on effect on the environment around them. Food sources decline, insect populations follow, and the game animals themselves suffer from malnutrition.
You may now see that hunting is beneficial to conservation and can have a positive effect on the wildlife within certain regions, but there is so much more to this. The hunter has a huge role in wildlife conservation and hunting responsibly could provide us with a sustainable food source while controlling populations, boosting environmental diversity, and preserving valuable habitats. In this article, we will be discussing this topic in-depth and looking at why the hunter is an extremely important part of wildlife conservation.
What Does Conservation Mean?
In short, conservation is about preserving nature and conserving all of the beautiful plants and animals that inhabit our world. Conservation is about the responsible management of habitats and wildlife to help protect them for the future, so the people, animals, and plants can live in harmony for years to come. Now, that last statement may make you wonder how exactly hunting fits into conservation, but bear with us, we will get to that in the next section.
There are many different definitions of conservation and some people will agree and disagree with some statements, but there are three points we can all agree on when defining conservation. These three points are the earliest terms developed to try and define the meaning of conservation. They can be found in The World Conservation Strategy, published in 1980:
- To maintain essential ecological processes and life support systems
- To preserve genetic diversity
- To ensure the sustainable utilization of species and ecosystems
These three points essentially summarize what conservation should be about and what should result from related efforts in all and any ecosystem. As much as some people hate to admit it, hunting is now a big part in all three of these points. Culling and controlling over-populated species, invasive species (imported flora and fauna that have a negative impact on the local environment), and destructive species that negatively impact the diversity of an ecosystem all help balance those three points.
How Can Hunting Something Conserve it?
After looking at the definition of conservation it can be hard to first see the hunter’s role in the preservation of wildlife because after all, the hunter goes out into the field to kill wild animals, right? It’s true that the hunter is out to kill, however, most hunters that follow seasons and hunt responsibly are positively impacting the environment. Species such as deer, moose, rabbit, and hare have their population naturally controlled by predators such as bear, wolf, and lynx.
In certain areas, the natural predators of game animals have been driven to extinction by us, so it is extremely important for hunters to take the place of those predators. Controlling game populations by culling is beneficial to the flora (plants), the fauna (the animals), and to us as humans by providing a sustainable source of meat that does not need to be farmed.
Unfortunately, humans have decimated predator populations all over the world through unsustainable hunting, so the predator’s prey now thrives without the threat of predation. When you take out the predator from the ecosystem the prey animals over-populate, decimate their food source, and eventually become malnourished, diseased, and sick. This is where the hunter comes in, to replace the job of the predator in order to control game populations and bring balance back to the ecosystem.
Invasive species are both plants and animals that are imported from foreign countries that have escaped or been released into the environment and have a negative effect on the local wildlife. Since man started traveling the world we have intentionally and unintentionally brought invasive species in and out of different countries that have had a direct effect on the natural order of our ecosystems. There are many invasive species throughout the world now and there is a constant battle to eliminate and control these species for the better of the environment.
Some invasive species you may recognize are Muntjac Deer, Japanese Knotweed, Feral Swine, Burmese Python, Swamp Rat, Asian Carp, Snake Heads, and even the Domestic Cat! These are just a few of the species that negatively affect the ecology of certain countries, so you can probably understand how big of a problem invasive species are.
With invasive animals such as the muntjac deer in the U.K and Europe and the Feral Swine in the U.S, the hunter is the only solution to the problem. If populations of animals such as these get too high, they decimate crops, deplete the food source of local wildlife, and take over habitat for native species. The hunter’s roll in this case is to cull as many of these invasive species as possible to protect and preserve the natural order within an ecosystem. This may seem cruel, but if these animals are left to their own devices the impact on native wildlife would be devastating.
Luckily, these animals are not just killed for fun or simple population control. The meat from most invasive species tastes good and is as sustainable as you can get so it doesn’t go to waste. There is a push to eat more game meat as it sustainable and if the meat is from an invasive animal it must be killed for the good of the environment anyway!
Hunting Helps Fund Conservation
We have looked at how hunting helps positively impact the environment by controlling indigenous game species (Deer, Moose, Bison, Hare, and Rabbit) and Invasive Species (Muntjac Deer, Feral Swine, Swamp Rat), but it’s not just culling that helps conservation. Hunting and fishing have a huge role to play in conservation through funding. In the U.S over 60% of the funding for the department of fish and wildlife is funded by hunting and fishing. Fishing tickets, taxes on equipment, license sales, and tag sales all contribute to conservation. So, if you are against hunting for “conservation reasons” you may want to think about where the funding will come from if hunting is abolished.
Unfortunately, money really does make the world go round and to do anything in this day and age you need money. As sad as it is, without funding, the environment would suffer because too few people would care to make efforts in conservation without reward or incentive. Because of this, a funding strategy needs to be in place and fortunately, hunting is already a massive source of money for conservation not only in the U.S but worldwide.
The revenue from hunting that is set aside for conservation is used in multiple ways. Every year funds from hunting are used to buy land for protection that can be used by hunters to help manage and sustain the area. Although these grounds are brought in an almost “selfish” mindset to make more money from the hunting community, the habitat and wildlife within it are conserved for future generations to enjoy. There are many other efforts that hunting funds, and to summarize these we have provided a list below:
- Purchasing land for hunting and wildlife conservation
- Wildlife research and ecological studies
- Wildlife and habitat management programs
- Education programs for conservation
- Education programs for hunters
- The purchase of land for sustainable refuge
To conclude, the hunter’s role in wildlife conservation is as the predator. Hunters can help control populations where there is a lack of natural predators and they can help reduce populations of invasive species that are damaging to the local environment. When hunting is practiced responsibly and sustainably it has an outstanding benefit to the ecosystem and can increase the diversity of the biota dramatically. Not only does the hunter have a role in conservation but hunting as a sport and business has a large part to play in preserving the native wildlife through funding. Overall, hunting is a big part of conservation both financially and physically when practiced sustainably with positive environmental intention.