Hunting as Conservation
Theodore Roosevelt once said “in a civilized and cultivated country, wild animals only continue to exist at all when preserved by sportsmen.” Conservation plays a vital role in preserving ecosystems and wildlife maintenance.
Conservation is defined as the protection or restoration of a natural environment, ecosystem, vegetation, and wildlife. Hunting is the best way to control animal populations, is the highest source of revenue for wildlife management, deters poaching, and keeps animals from destroying crops or killing livestock, both here in the US and in places like Africa. Hunters are constantly being called savages and blood-thirsty by anti-hunters and anti-hunting organizations, such as PETA, when in fact hunting helps regulate populations, generates the most money for conservation efforts, and deters poaching. Overgrazing has been an issue for some species, but hunting keeps populations at manageable number. Overgrazing is when a population outgrows its food source, resulting in starvation. Anti-hunting organizations like PETA claim that predators will balance prey populations, but history has shown us that is not the case.
In 1950, only 12,000 pronghorn remained in the US, in just over sixty years their numbers have reached around 1.1 million. In 1900 there were only 500,000 whitetails left, now there are over 32 million. Over population, which lead to overgrazing, decimated those animals. This occurs in areas where not many people hunt, and the populations get out of hand.
Hunters help regulate populations so this doesn’t happen. Prey animals aren’t the only animals to wreak havoc on ecosystems by becoming overpopulated. Places like Idaho and Montana where hunting wolves is legal, have had issues of wolves over hunting leading to a decrease in deer and elk. Both predator and prey animals benefit from conservation effort through hunting. Hunters also regulate invasive species, such as the European Rabbit in Australia.
First introduced for food in the eighteenth century, the rabbits soon got out of control. These rabbits are disrupting the ecosystem and destroying farmlands. They have created a higher competition for food and shelter for native animals. Because they are selective eaters, only eating seedlings before they can reproduce, they have lead to the decline of some Australia’s flora. A rabbit can’t feel a fully grown tree, but it eats the seeds before a new one can grow, so when the old one dies there isn’t one to replace it. This has lead to soil erosion and loss of nutrients in the soil.
Australia has tried to introduce feral cats and foxes to deal with the rabbits, but the predators have done little to deter the invasive rodents. The most effective solutions have been hunting, trapping, and poisoning. In the islands around Australia that faced a similar problem, such as Kangaroo Island, these methods have been successful in eradicating the rabbit population. Hunting keeps both native and invasive species manageable so they do not hurt themselves and the ecosystem. When animals are not hunted, they outgrow their habitat and move into farmlands. Farming is a multibillion dollar industry, and wild animals, such as deer or elk, begin to eat a farmer’s crops, the results can be devastating.
Wild hogs and white-tailed deer are the most responsible for crop damage in the US. Both of these animals are overpopulated. Deer alone account for about 248 million dollars worth of damage to crops in the northeast. One of the reasons these animals have started overgrazing is because fewer and fewer people are hunting and controlling the population. Prey animals are not the animals that threaten farmers.
California, that has banned wolf hunting for decades are now attacking livestock. The animals have outgrown their natural food supply and have began hunting livestock. The loss of livestock can be detrimental to a rancher. Like the deer and boar, the best way to control wolves’ population and to prevent them from killing livestock is to hunt the animals until they reach a manageable population. Hunting keeps populations from outgrowing their habitat and killing livestock, and eating crops, saving farmers money. Hunting is the primary source of the money used for wildlife and habitat maintenance.
Through the purchase of hunting licences alone hunters bring in around 7.2 billion dollars annually, 60% of the revenue of wildlife management, all of which goes towards conservation efforts. But hunters aren’t the only source of money, organizations such at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, or Ducks Unlimited, contribute about 300 million. These organizations focus hunting as conservation, and preserving wildlife and their habitat. They get most of their money from donations, which often come from hunters, and raffles, where they raffle off hunts.
Likewise, hunters have proposed amendments to repurpose tax money benefit wildlife. In 1937 the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, or the Pittman-Robertson Act, was passed. This act repurposed the pre-existing 11% tax on firearms and ammunition. The money used to go to the US Treasury, but with the Act the money gets distributed throughout the states towards their wildlife management agencies, such as the Division of Parks and Wildlife in Colorado. Annually, this tax created an additional 4.2 billion dollars annually, which then gets distributed based on a state’s area and the number of licensed hunters.
The purpose of this act is to conserve and restore bird and mammal populations, educate the public about hunting, and educate hunters. Despite what anti-hunters might have you believe hunting is the biggest revenue for wildlife. Hunting creates around 7 billion dollars more than ecotourism. Ecotourism is tourism directed towards exotic, and often threatened, animals to support conservation efforts and observe wildlife. Ecotourism generates between 25 to 30 million dollars.
Ecotourism is most profitable in places like Africa, but it is still not the highest source of revenue: hunting is. In Africa hunting generates 86 million dollars annually, still 56 million dollars more than ecotourism. Despite what organizations like PETA might have you believe, they do little to help wildlife maintenance. PETA has an annual revenue of 29 million dollars. The money is distributed between media coverage, organized demonstrations, “vegetarian starter kits”, and their brand of education. Nothing goes towards conservation efforts.
Hunters generate more money for conservation and wildlife than any other source of revenue. Banning hunting not only results to overpopulating and a loss in funds, but it also increases the amount of poaching. In Botswana, Africa in 1960 the African elephant population was around 8,000. Around the same time Kenya had banned the hunting of elephants, in 1973 the Kenyan elephant population was at 167,000. In 2013 the elephant populations in Botswana and Kenya were surveyed, in Botswana, where hunting was legal, the elephant population was at 154,000, and in Kenya, where hunting had been banned for 40 years, the population was at 27,000. In the past two decades, Kenya has had 581 illegal ivory seizures, Botswana has had 127 in the same time frame.
Poaching has gone up in Kenya because is has lost the funds coming in to keep rangers on guard to protect from poachers. As stated before, hunting brings in 68 million dollars annually to African countries to hunt, 56 million dollars more than ecotourism. Hunting in Botswana has recently been banned, and the ban is too new to see any significant change in either illegal ivory seizures or populations. Hunting in not mindless killing for bloodlust, it is the best method of conservation. Hunting regulates populations of both prey and predator animals to prevent overpopulation and overgrazing.
Without hunting, animals would slowly starve to death and their populations would drop to near extinction, like the white-tailed deer in the early 1900s. It is the best way to control invasive species which destroy ecosystems, such as seen with the European Rabbit in Australia. Regulating populations and keeping them from outgrowing their food source saves farmers and ranchers from having to deal with crop damage and livestock losses caused by wildlife. Hunters are also the biggest financial supporters of conservation, creating 7.2 billion dollars annually through hunting licences alone, hunting organizations give 300 million annually, the highest source of revenue for conservation efforts.
Legal, regulated hunting helps deter poaching, saving species. Anti-hunting organizations often do nothing but spout rhetoric without evidence, and very rarely donate to conservation causes, and never in the amount that hunters do. Their plan for population control is known as “trap-neuter-release,” in which animals are trapped, made infertile, and released. This solution is costly, and would lack the funds without hunting. Anti-hunters let their emotions cloud their judgement and ignore the facts.
Leaving emotion aside, hunting is the best form of conservation, it does more for wildlife than any other organization or institution, and yet it is condemned by anti-hunters. Hunters continuously provide evidence, not just rhetoric as anti-hunting zealots rarely do, that hunting is beneficial to wildlife.