How Does Hunting Affect the Environment – A Close Inspection
The topic of hunting animals brings about a flurry of controversies. While many discourage hunting entirely citing animal cruelty and extinction as the key reasons, there are also proponents of hunting on the other side of the spectrum.
Despite seeming unnecessary at first, there are many advantages to hunting that render it important for the environment.
Why hunting can be good for the environment
Controlling animal population
If animal populations are left unsupervised in areas without carnivorous predators, this could cause them to breed uncontrollably at a fast rate. This may result in overpopulation and lead to subsequent problems.
One such problem is the lack of food that arises due to scarcity. If an ecosystem has an imbalance in its predator to prey ratio, with a surplus of herbivorous prey and a lack of carnivorous predators, then the remaining prey species will fight for the insufficient amount of food. The competition amongst the herbivores will result in the removal of the plant species in that habitat.
Hunting in these areas could help in animal population control as it helps cull the excessive species of prey and mitigate the damage. By targeting areas with excessive prey, hunters can engage in ethical hunting and help prevent many ecosystems from collapsing.
Helping in balancing the ecosystem
The rapidly growing population of deer transforms its forest habitats into pasturelands. Since deer are drawn towards saplings, too many deer would result in the consumption of all the saplings in their vicinity.
In many states in the US, deer have infested forests and wreaked havoc on the ecosystem. Moreover, these animals also encourage the growth of ferns – a plant that hinders the growth of other pants in the forest as it blocks the sunlight they need to grow. This kind of environmental degradation could lead to the entire ecosystem being disrupted and encourage the destruction of several plant species.
Furthermore, deer could cause irreversible change in the species composition of their surroundings. They could force their environment to seek alternative species composition due to the disruption in the equilibrium caused by the deer, leading other animals in their surroundings to be plunged into instability.
Ethically hunting animals which are detrimental to the environment could help decrease the likelihood of environmental degradation, increase diversity within forests, and overall facilitate healthier ecosystems for all animals. For example, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Mission observed that the small duck population from 1901 was transformed to a whopping 40 million today due to the efforts of hunters in conserving wetlands by eliminating invasive alien species. This shows that when hunters make well-intentioned efforts in conserving wildlife, they are largely successful.
Preventing the spread of disease
Scarcity of food may result in the immune systems of different animal species being weakened. This makes them more prone to get attacked by diseases in their environment. Once a disease attacks one animal, it could harm the whole population that may weaken the entire habitat.
In this case, hunting animals that are prone to diseases could be beneficial for the environment at large as it helps secure the ecosystem by preventing the spread of disease. Another point to note is that hunting seasons are usually set up in early autumn, just before the food scarcity strikes. This is a strategically placed window that allows weak animals to be hunted before the winter or predators eliminate them. Hunting and harvesting these animals early drastically helps lessen the chances of diseases spreading within their respective communities.
The hunting industry is immense and it generates millions of dollars every year that are funneled into wildlife conservation. According to RMEF, hunters inadvertently finance most wildlife law enforcement work that benefits many non-game species. The taxes from hunting permits and licenses are utilized in facilitating other environmental efforts, such as the maintenance of wildlife parks or conducting wildlife research that can aid in understanding how various animal species contribute to their natural environment.
Furthermore, hunting is a highly regulated industry. There are different policies in place in the United States that dictate where and when a person can hunt at which time of the year. There are many organizations, such as the State Fish and Wildlife Management Agency to protect animals from being endangered and strictly monitor all activities that might put various animal species at risk. It should also be noted that hunters require hunting licenses before they venture out into the wild. On top of the license, hunters must purchase a tag while hunting for large game animals, which helps limit the amount of kills in that area.
Is it all good for the environment?
While hunting has many noteworthy advantages, there is more to the story.
Glorifying killing – trophy hunting
Trophy hunting is the hunting of wild game for the purpose of human recreation. It leads to the killing of the strongest and largest animals in a pack, which results in the population decline of their respective species. The most popular choices for hunters are elephants, lions, leopards and rhinoceroses.
According to Humane Society International, most trophy hunters are American. By killing the strongest males in a pride of lions, hunters doom the rest of the population to chaos. The cubs and female lions are put in jeopardy as the death of a dominant African lion would leave them vulnerable and susceptible to a hostile pride takeover by another male. If this happens, the cubs of the previous lion would be killed by the new lion. Killing off the strongest animal in a community removes the best genes from the gene pool and results in weaker generations successively.
Moreover, different US-based hunting organizations, such as Safari Club International, National Rifle Association and Dallas Safari Club actively incentivize hunters to kill endangered species and persistently lobby for less regulation and restrictions on trophy hunting. Overall, their actions propel animal endangerment and encourage environmental degradation.
Endangering animal species
Excessive hunting may drive animals towards extinction. Even if there are laws such as the Endangered Species Act to prevent extinction, many hunters refuse to respect the law in favor of bagging the profits.
Disrupting the equilibrium of the ecosystem
Endangering animals could upturn the ecosystem. By hunting predator species excessively, the ratio of predator to prey launches into chaos and leads to a surplus of prey species. As mentioned above, the overwhelming number of herbivorous prey could lead to scarcity, death and the complete eradication of plant species.
Hunters contribute to and exacerbate this imbalance, and the habitat calls for hunters to remove the excessive amounts of prey species that were ironically created due to hunting initially. In order to restore the balance, the environment comes full circle as the hunters are relied upon to solve a problem they created in the first place.
So, does hunting help or hurt the environment?
Unregulated hunting could become synonymous with a violent and spurious killing spree solely for the sake of vindictive human enjoyment. However, ethical hunting for the sake of wildlife conservation – as promoted by responsible hunters like the RangerExpert team – could be extremely beneficial for the environment. With proper regulation and repercussions in place for the endangered animal species, hunting can be a strategic way to conserve our resources and restore balance to our ecosystems globally.