How important is hunting to conservation and successful wildlife management?
In a word…crucial.
By definition, wildlife management is the science of managing wildlife and its habitat –or food, water, shelter and space – for the benefit of soil, vegetation and animals, humans included.
Wildlife managers seek to maintain healthy animal populations at their optimal carrying capacity, or in other words, so there are not too many or too few animals in relation to the habitat around them.
If there are too many, wildlife may eat too much of the vegetation that makes up its food and cover which leads to less habitat and dwindling numbers due to starvation, disease or other issues.
Hunting is the key tool used by managers to reduce excess wildlife numbers. It is strictly regulated with detailed laws according to species, sex of species, location, time of year and other factors including harvest quotas to keep populations at their ideal carrying capacity.
For example, if elk populations are above objective in a particular region, wildlife managers may increase the number of cow permits, bull permits or both cow and bull permits available to hunters. That allows hunters to take more elk off the landscape for the benefit of the overall population and the surrounding habitat.
In addition to prey, wildlife managers also manage predators. If a certain area is particularly saturated with mountain lions, wolves and bears, and those predators have a detrimental impact on ungulate numbers, prey on livestock or are a danger to a community, wildlife managers may issue additional predator permits.
These actions take place in accordance with the North American Wildlife Conservation Model which ensures that all wildlife populations are managed for their overall health and benefit.