What Is The Hunter's Role in Wildlife Conservation

What Is The Hunter's Role in Wildlife Conservation

Many thought that hunting is destroying wildlife- but what most people do not realize is that hunting helps conservation. In fact, hunters contributed to the modern wildlife conservation in the U.S.A. Teddy Roosevelt, who was the president from 1901 to 1909 was also known as a hunter, and a wildlife conservation advocate at the same time. He has helped to establish many wildlife preserves across the U.S.A.  

In this article, we will debunk the common stereotypes towards hunters and take a deeper look on how does hunting support conservation efforts.  


Conservation VS Preservation: What’s the difference?

Before we discuss how hunting helps conservation, we should first understand how conservation is applied and what are its differences from preservation. Many people still think that conservation and preservation are interchangeable terms, when in fact, they are not. 

Conservation essentially promotes the sustainable use of natural resources so that all species from an ecosystem can benefit from such resources for a long time. For example, conservation policies aim to regulate the frequency of hunting so that wildlife will have time to repopulate.  Preservation, on the other hand, protects nature from any human influence. For example, land rights for national landmarks are off-limits to real estate companies, unless the government changes authorizes it. 

These two terms are constantly being used by wildlife advocates to highlight the importance of a “give-and-take” relationship when it comes to hunting and other recreational activities done outdoors. Such activities cannot be prohibited, but it can be regulated with the help of policy makers who make use of concepts such as conservation and preservation.


How Did Professional Hunters Help The US Conservation Movement?

Before the wildlife conservation movement, hunting was considered as a lifestyle and as a source of income for many Americans. Animal products such as meat and pelt were sold at a decent price, but as many merchants took notice of the high profitability of these products, prices soon went up. The surge of prices among the animal products has motivated other hunters to abuse their hunting grounds. This has resulted in species such as carrier pigeons and bison to be hunted near extinction.

So how does hunting support conservation efforts? The answer is simple: it raised awareness on the threat of abusive profiteering from animal products produced from hunting.  

Professional hunters, anglers, and many citizens who enjoyed the outdoors saw this as a threat to wildlife. These groups of people teamed up with foresters and scientists to push policy makers for hunting regulations, and other policies that would benefit American wildlife.  Roosevelt, was among the early advocates who have contributed to the creation of policies and regulations to combat excessive hunting that can be destructive to wildlife species. These advocates paved the way for the U.S. conservation movement which helped the survival of many native wildlife in the U.S.A. 

Eventually, the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation was established which outlines the right of Americans to hunt for recreation, or for meat. The limitations of that right is also defined as well as the eligibility to avail of that right. 


What Is The Hunter's Role in Wildlife Conservation

What Is The Current State of Hunting And Conservation?

With the rise of social media, hunting has been heavily criticized and seen as “disruptive” to conservation efforts. In reality, modern U.S. hunters are members of conservation movements across different states. Hunters directly contribute to conservation by helping reduce the risk of overgrazing and overpopulation of wild animals. Deers, which are the most popular hunting targets, are also threats to native plant species and reforestation projects. Hunters combat this threat by responsibly and legally keeping the deer population in control. 

Modern hunters have also resorted to using sustainable technology such as anelectric hunting bike instead of using a diesel-powered 4x4 to navigate through their hunting grounds. These off-road electric bikes are similar to pedal bicycles, and they do not emit smoke nor destroy the terrain of hunting grounds. Some states also require anebike license for hunters who wish to avail of an electric hunting bike. An ebike license allows the state to hold the bike owners accountable for any violations of their local hunting policies. In some states, the guidelines for usingoff-road electric bikes are also given when any one applies for an ebike license. 

Aside from using sustainable technology that can help in conservation efforts, hunters have also been recognized as contributors to wildlife conservation by local and federal institutions. For example, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Pacific Region or USFWS, have cited hunters as contributors to the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and other conservation policies.

Financial support has also been given to conservation efforts by many hunter advocates which eventually paved the way for acts such as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act of 1934. Also, according to the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, donations from hunters account for more than half of the local wildlife’s agency budget.

Apart from the voluntary contributions of hunters, the Pittman-Robertson Act has required taxations on hunting supplies such as guns and ammunition to provide funds for federal and state wildlife conservation agencies. This act has generated more than 10 billion dollars for the funding of fish and wildlife conservation agencies. These taxes collected from hunters also contributed to the repopulation of previously endangered American wildlife species such as wood duck, wild turkey, and white-tailed deer.  

All of these reflect the current state of hunting and conservation efforts, which most media fail to portray to the public. But despite the stigma surrounding hunters, many federal agencies encourage Americans to pursue a career in hunting regardless if it is for recreational purposes or for competitive sports.  Many institutions also promote hunting as a helpful factor for conservation, such institutions are the Sportsmen’s Alliance and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation which garnered hundreds of members to support their conservation-centric agendas. These two institutions constantly communicate the importance of conservation in all hunting activities, while also promoting hunting as a worthwhile endeavor for Americans.

Educational initiatives are also launched by hunters for those who aspire to become one. Organizations such as the Boone and Crockett Club, the Safari Club International, and the National Rifle Association frequently conduct seminars on proper firearm usage for hunting, and steps on how to become a responsible hunter. These initiatives aim to increase awareness that hunting is beneficial to wildlife conservation. It has also generated revenues from membership fees which were then donated to local agencies for better implementation of responsible hunting and various wildlife conservation policies. 

Outside the U.S.A, there are also many hunting organizations that contribute to conservation efforts of their local government. These efforts ensure that both hunters, and many wildlife species would equally benefit from each other. Globally, hunting organizations have raised over 20 billion dollars to be used for habitat preservation which paves the way for a promising future in the hunting industry. 


The North American Wildlife Conservation Model

This model has been the basis for many state laws and policies aimed to conserve wildlife, while still making hunting available as a recreational activity or a sport for many Americans. The model serves as a guideline for local agencies before they implement or enforce any hunting regulations. This model generally highlights 7 principles:

Wildlife as a Public Trust

In the U.S.A, ownership of wildlife on any territory cannot be assumed by a single entity. The public has the ownership of it. Like any public possession, everyone should be allowed to benefit from it, and not just an exclusive group of people. 

The local and federal governments are entrusted with the management and the proper allocation of the resources derived from wildlife and their habitat, even if this habitat falls under the territory of a certain land-owner. Simply put, even if the land is owned by a private entity, they do not have the authority to manage the wildlife living in it.  

You Can’t Sell Native Animals 

Sale of native North American wildlife is prohibited so that there will be no market that will be created for such products. This prohibition includes the sale of meat, pelt, skin, horns or other body parts collected from native animals. This means that it is illegal for hunters to promote the sale of native animals, or any products derived from them. In case you were curious about it, this principle is what keeps hunters from selling deer meat or any deer products that they have collected from hunting because many deer species are considered native in the U.S.A

Allocation of Wildlife By Law / not Free Market

Wildlife species also have rights protected by federal laws. These rights are not affected by market concepts or elitist agendas. For example, hunting of native animals for meat amidst a meat shortage would still be prohibited.  Other examples of laws that protect wildlife’s rights include the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the 1973 Endangered Species Protection Act, both of which seek to protect the population of several species that are nearing extinction. 

Hunting Opportunity for All

All American citizens are to be given the opportunity to hunt and fish legally, in United States territory. This is basically their birthright. Exclusive hunting privileges for certain groups of people are prohibited and should not be tolerated by any governing body. This principle is applied in the sale of hunting tags. Most of which are offered at a cheap price for Americans. 

Wildlife Use Must Have Purpose

Killing wildlife on a whim is also prohibited. This includes trophy hunting for just the horns, skins, or other specific body parts of an animal. Hunting should come with a legal reason and any carcass you collect out of hunting should be used as food or for fur. 

International Resources

Wildlife such as birds and other game have migratory behavior and they often cross international borders. In light of this, many different international agreements have been put in place so that migratory wildlife would be classified as international resources. Management of these resources should be done as a coordinated effort between management agencies of affected countries. Of course, this coordination should be adherent to the relevant international treaty.  

Scientific Management

Decisions involving wildlife should be made with the help of science, and not motivated by greed. Extensive studies and researches should be conducted before activities such as wildlife population control should  be authorized. Private interests are barred when it comes to wildlife resource management.   

In Summary

These seven basic principles aim to regulate the consumption of resources derived from wildlife so that wildlife species would continue to exist without prohibiting hunters from performing their profession. It also guides hunters on the “Do’s and Don’ts'' when they conduct their activities. 

Many government units and non-government organizations also use this model as their main guideline when making decisions and initiatives concerning wildlife. Lastly, this model seeks to prevent the previous phenomenon wherein wildlife resources were seen as merely profitable opportunities, which were abused by merchants, hunters, and land-owners.

How Does Hunting Support Conservation Efforts?

There are two main things that hunting does to help conserve wildlife. The first one is that it acts as a source of funding for the state agencies that also aid in the conservation of habitats. While there can also be many sources for this money, it is still an undeniable fact that in North America, a huge portion of the fund is generated through hunting. 

On the other hand, the second thing that hunting does for conservation is that it helps control prey species such as deers, elks, and bison who might otherwise have spikes on their population due to the reduction in the numbers of predator species. 

Here is a more detailed explanation about how does hunting support conservation efforts:

Hunting Funds Conservation

It is an undeniable fact that over half of the Department of Fish and Wildlife is funded by hunting. For you to understand better, here is the breakdown of where the funding comes from in Idaho:

29% of the budget comes from Federal money such as Idaho Power land leasing and many more. 22% comes from non-resident tag sales. 19% comes from resident license sales. 16% from taxes on sporting goods. Lastly, 14% comes from other activities. To sum it up, roughly 55% of funding comes from taxes and tags. 

Given this information, it can be confirmed that hunters do fund over half of the Department of Fish and Wildlife. In turn, this department spends a big portion of that budget to directly support hunting activities. Believe it or not, a lot of money goes to funding basic scientific research of plants and animals. 

Aside from that, a significant portion of the fund is used to buy up new land and protect it with the purpose of allowing hunters to hunt on it in the future. The good thing about this is that these areas are also conserved for the thousands of other species that use these lands as their habitat. 

To sum it up, here are the major activities that the fund from hunting supports: 

  • Research about wildlife
  • Purchase of land for the Refuge System
  • Development and conduction of Wildlife Management Programs
  • Buying of lands that can be opened to hunters
  • Hunter Education Program


Hunting Controls Populations

If you are an avid hunter, then you must know that hunting deers help keep their population in check.  The reason why hunters are needed is because we have lost a significant number of the animals who are their natural predator. This means that the population of the deer can potentially become out of control. But, why would that even be a problem?

Well, the first reason would be their feeding nature. They are herbivores and if their numbers grow big, they can destroy vegetation. As a matter of fact, there is an overabundance of deer in the Eastern United States that is considered to be the biggest threat to the forest more than climate change. This information came from the Nature Conservancy and they have also stated facts that there are already some notable changes in the dynamics of the forest such as decrease in the population of songbirds, and decreased biodiversity across a wide range of taxa. 

Aside from that, deers and other prey species also spread diseases. As a major fact, they are the number one hosts for Lyme disease, which is causing huge problems in the United States. The tick sucks the blood from the deer who is infected by the disease and then passes the pathogens to human beings. 

Lastly, there are also a lot of deers, elk, and moose that cause immense problems for motorists. Data from 2013 shows that there were 1.5 million deer-related collisions causing injuries to 13,713 people and $1.1 billion worth of vehicular damage. 


What Is The Hunter's Role in Wildlife Conservation

How Do Wildlife Agencies Regulate Hunting?

If hunting controls population, wouldn’t there come a time when the prey species that they hunt will also near extinction because of hunting? To prevent that from happening, there are laws and regulations that are enacted. In this section, we will answer the question, “how do wildlife agencies regulate hunting?”

For many years, it has already been proven that necessary laws and regulations constitute an essential tool for resource management, specifically as means of promulgating restraints. In the field of wildlife, these reticences have roots in antiquity. History shows that restrictions on taking game were put into law in the pre-Revolutionary times in all of the thirteen American colonies. 

The legislation and administrative regulations that were put into law have served a pragmatic role of creating policies and promoting improvement of the environment in the interest of a technically sound wildlife management. 


As stated in the constitutional provisions of the United States, the state has the prime legal responsibility in the protection and administration of wildlife. Both should be done by administering the well-established and recognized doctrine of public ownership of wildlife. Besides that, police power is also a choice of action in the protection and management of wildlife. 

None of the functions mentioned above can be transferred to the federal government during the time that the federal constitution was adopted, henceforth, they remained with the state. However, the Constitution still reserves to the federal government some particular functions such as treaty making and the regulation of interstate commerce. Both of which are frequently applied for the wildlife conservation process. 

But, it is also important to take note that the actions of the federal government sometimes limit state jurisdiction in ways that influence the management of areas that are of national significance. 

State Responsibilities

Wildlife administration is assumed early as the trust of the people and this was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1896 during the widely quoted case of Geer vs. Connecticut. This decision probably influences both the establishment in every state of a government unit that is tasked to take on wildlife affairs, and in passage of a large and complex body of state laws or regulations to further promulgate wildlife conservation. 


Will A Decline in Hunting Threaten Wildlife?

While it is an undeniable fact that hunting is essential in the conservation of wildlife, will a decline in the activity threaten wildlife as well?

If you will look into history, you can say that hunting as a sport is rapidly declining across the United States. Looking back fifty years ago, there is over 10% of the American population who engage in hunting. However, it is a sad truth that this percentage is now down to only five.

One of the consequences of the decline in the number of hunters is that funds for wildlife conservation also declined significantly. Some of the departments are now facing problems of understaffing which results in inadequate monitoring and management of wildlife and habitat.  

Responsible hunters who abide by the law and regulations pay excise taxes on guns and ammunition. Besides that, they also pay for hunting licenses. The payments that they make play a crucial role in preserving and conserving wildlife populations and their habitat. This is why it is crucial that the love and passion for hunting, as well as the skills and knowledge be passed down to children and grandchildren.

The future generations, when taught well, can also become the future of wildlife and by helping in preserving and conserving American wildlands and wildlife, an enormous benefit will be felt by everyone. 


What Is The Future of Hunting and Conservation?

As mentioned above, the number of people participating in hunting is rapidly declining. In a 2016 survey completed by the USFWS, it can be inferred that the number of hunters taking to the woods have declined by a jaw-dropping two million over a five year period. The survey also shows that 11.5 million are still actively hunting. However, fifty years ago, that number was twice as much. 

If we would monetize the decline in hunting participation, that would signify a $10 billion loss in over half a century and that number is steadily declining each year. The dramatic decrease in these numbers has pushed the wildlife agencies and other conservation groups to find new ways to make income in order to effectively sustain their environmental efforts. However, there is so much uncertainty in this path, so it is still a must that the experienced hunters of today impart their knowledge and skills on the new generations who may someday continue the legacy. 

Hunters have an ethical responsibility for habitats to thrive and remain at steady levels, as well as for the overall welfare of Mother Nature. The current generation of hunters must be able to maintain and sustain the foundations of conservation and pass that belief on to the future generation. 

The past is already enough proof that poor and improper conservation efforts and loose restrictions on hunting can result in rapid extinction of several species and also to environmental catastrophes. Therefore, for us to be able to avoid any long-term issues, here are some few things that every hunter can do to conserve and hunt for the future:

  • All hunters have the capability to directly support wildlife conservation efforts by buying a hunting or fishing license every year. The money generated from this activity goes directly to state wildlife agencies to support multiple conservation programs all over the country. 
  • Besides that, hunters also have the option to buy a Federal Duck Stamp for the preservation of waterfowl habitats. 

Above anything, having a deep appreciation for hunting can bring in opportunities to make a difference. Most of the time, hunters are seen as a problem for nature. They are pictured as people who depletes nature’s resources. However, the fact still stands that hunters are actually a direct solution to the problem. 


After publishing this article in 2021, I asked Artificial Intelligence (AI) what it thinks about the Hunter's role in wildlife conservation is and some other ethical questions about hunting. It was an interesting exchange so I'm going to share that exchange below:

John: What can AI do for the hunting industry?

AI can be used in a variety of ways to assist the hunting industry. Some examples include:

  • Wildlife tracking and monitoring: AI-powered cameras and drones can be used to track and monitor wildlife populations, which can help hunters make more informed decisions about where to hunt.
  • Predictive modeling: AI algorithms can be used to analyze data on weather, animal behavior, and other factors to predict where and when certain species are likely to be found.
  • Automated game calls: AI-powered devices can be programmed to mimic the calls of different animals, which can attract them to a specific location and make them easier to hunt.
  • Game recognition: AI-powered cameras and other devices can be used to automatically identify different species of game, which can help hunters quickly and accurately identify their target.
  • Automatic animal tracking: AI-powered cameras can be used to automatically track and identify animals, this can help hunters to find and track the animal they want to hunt.

Overall, AI can provide valuable insights and assistance to hunters, helping them to be more efficient and effective in their pursuits.

John: Does this technology already exist?

Some of the AI-powered technologies for hunting that I mentioned do already exist and are available on the market. For example, there are AI-powered cameras and drones that can be used for wildlife tracking and monitoring, and some companies have developed AI-powered devices that can mimic the calls of different animals to attract game. Additionally, there are AI-powered cameras that can automatically identify different species of game, and automatic animal tracking cameras.

However, it's worth noting that the development and implementation of these technologies are still relatively new and not all of them are widely available or adopted yet. Additionally, the use of AI technology in hunting is a controversial topic, and there may be limitations on its use in certain areas due to regulations or ethical concerns.

John: How big is the hunting industry?

The hunting industry is a significant contributor to the economy in many countries, although the size of the industry can vary depending on the country and region. In the United States, hunting and fishing activities contribute billions of dollars to the economy each year. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in 2016 hunting, fishing and wildlife-related recreation contributed $156 billion to the U.S economy and supported 1.6 million jobs.

In Europe, hunting is also an important economic activity, with many countries having a long history of hunting and a significant number of people engaged in hunting as a hobby or profession. In Germany, for example, hunting generates around €8 billion in revenue annually, and supports around 200,000 jobs.

In Africa, hunting also has a significant impact on the economy, mainly in rural areas where hunting safaris generate income for local communities, and in the case of big game hunting, the revenue can be substantial.

Overall, hunting is an important source of revenue and employment in many countries, and the industry continues to grow as a result of new technologies and innovations that make hunting more efficient and effective.

John: Are electric bikes popular among hunters?

Electric bikes, also known as e-bikes, are becoming increasingly popular among hunters as they offer a number of benefits over traditional bicycles or other modes of transportation.
One of the main advantages of e-bikes is that they allow hunters to cover more ground quickly and easily, which can be particularly useful when hunting in rough terrain or in areas with limited access. E-bikes also provide a silent mode of transportation, which can be an advantage when trying to get close to game without being detected.

Another advantage of e-bikes is that they are less physically demanding than traditional bicycles, which can make them a good option for hunters who may not be in the best physical shape or for those who have mobility issues.

Additionally, e-bikes have become more affordable and available, this has made them more accessible for a wider range of hunters.

Overall, electric bikes are becoming an increasingly popular option among hunters due to their convenience and versatility, and it's likely that their popularity will continue to grow in the future.

John: Is hunting a net positive for the USA?

Hunting can have both positive and negative impacts on the environment and the economy in the United States.
On the positive side, hunting can help to control wildlife populations and prevent overpopulation, which can lead to habitat destruction and other negative impacts. Hunting can also help to control the spread of diseases among wildlife populations.

In addition, hunting is an important economic activity in many parts of the United States, generating billions of dollars in revenue each year and supporting thousands of jobs. Hunting is also an important source of food for many people, and it is a traditional and cultural activity for many communities.

However, hunting can also have negative impacts. For example, it can lead to the decline of certain species if they are hunted excessively. Additionally, hunting can be harmful to the environment if it is not regulated properly, as it can lead to habitat destruction, soil erosion, and other negative impacts.

Overall, hunting can have both positive and negative impacts on the environment and the economy in the United States, and it is important that hunting is managed and regulated in a sustainable way to minimize negative impacts and maximize positive benefits.

John: Is hunting still popular in the USA?

Hunting is still popular in the United States, although the number of hunters has been declining in recent years. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the number of hunters in the United States has declined by about 2% per year on average over the past decade.

However, hunting remains an important cultural and economic activity in many parts of the country, and it is still popular among many people. According to the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, in 2021, around 14.2 million people hunted in the U.S. This number reflects a decline from the previous years, but it's still a significant number of people.

The reasons for the decline in hunting numbers are various, and it could be due to different factors such as urbanization, changes in societal values, and lack of access to hunting lands. Additionally, the cost of hunting equipment, licenses, and leases can make hunting a costly activity, and that could be a barrier for some people.

Despite the decline in the number of hunters, hunting remains an important activity and a vital component of wildlife management and conservation. Hunting organizations, state and federal agencies, and other groups are working to promote hunting and to make it more accessible to new participants, by creating programs and initiatives that encourage people to try hunting and to keep hunting traditions alive.

John: How many people in the USA are hunters?

According to the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, in 2021, around 14.2 million people hunted in the United States. The survey is conducted every five years by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and provides detailed information on the number of people who hunt, fish, and engage in other wildlife-related activities.
It's worth noting that the number of hunters has been declining in recent years, and it's about half of what it was in the 1970s, but it's still a significant number of people.

It's also worth noting that the number of hunters varies from state to state and can be influenced by factors such as population density, availability of public hunting land, and hunting regulations.


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