The ecological impact of hunting

Split this into a new topic from this original topic. Tried to do the best I could but there are some weird remnants in both topics now.

The dicussion has been good so far, and it’s an interesting topic, but I know hunting can bring up strong emotions so please stay civil and don’t make sweeping judgements.


Thanks to synchronicity a link to this article recently showed up on the local biodiversity Facebook page I follow. Posts on the page get a lot (given its very small size) of attention until it comes to discussion of deer over population, hunting, predator reintroduction, or anything that isn’t ‘pretty’. The impact of no/low hunting and no predation seems clear.

Well, hunting white tail seems to be one of the things that we really do need to hunt. I wish I had taken a picture, but there is a small chunk of old growth forest in Allegheny National Forest in PA that has park info signs about deer overbrowsing. Basically the entire understory (in areas where there’s enough light penatrating the canopy, at least,) is just a giant swath of hay-scented fern.

What happens in these areas is that the deer browse literally everything but the ferns, and then the ferns just absolutely take over and prevent tree saplings from germinating in enough abundance to outcompete the deer… which means the canopy trees don’t get replaced when they fall down, which leads to more ferns, etc. Its a seriously vicious cycle, I really should try to get some pics of just the giant clearings full of these ferns next time I’m out in Allegheny



The same thing applies here. I live on a small island with no predators capable a taking a deer. The only predators are a very few hunters, most of them hunting unlawfully, vehicles, and stray dogs. Everything is over browsed. The whole island is in danger of looking like some English lord’s deer park.

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Considering that coyotes are in the southeast, in part, because of the efforts of coyote hunters…

In the United States, thanks to the Pittman-Robertson Act, funding for wildlife conservation (including nongame species) comes primarily from the sale of hunting/fishing licenses and an excise tax on hunting/fishing equipment.

The Teaming with Wildlife Act tried to extend the excise tax for items sold to non-consumptive outdoor recreationists (sleeping bags, binoculars, etc.). However, this was not passed, thanks in large part to the major companies selling this gear.

The recent Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would have opened up additional funding if it had been passed :unamused:.


I didn’t know that, really interesting!

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There’s also duck stamps, which kind of pull double duty as a hunting license and also as a collectible

As a person that camps a lot, I sure as hell wouldn’t mind paying a little more on big one-time purchases like sleeping bags if it was going to conservation. That’s unfortunate that it didn’t pass - though understandable, given the power of lobbyists.


Yes, they’re a great way to support land conservation! I’m not a hunter but I buy one every year.

“98 percent of the purchase prices goes directly to help acquire and protect wetland habitat and purchase conservation easements for the National Wildlife Refuge System”

Maybe not everyone knows this, but they also get you into the few National Wildlife Refuges that charge for free as well!


That seems like it would have been a good thing to the extent that it would also have shifted the focus of wildlife conservation away from “more game animals”.


The ecological impact should always include the amount of lead introduced into the environment from shooting. 6000 tonnes of lead every year in the UK alone and it gets into the food chain for humans and animals as well. I’m not against hunting as such but I am against shooting which is what we get for the most part in the UK. Millions of half tame birds are released into the countryside to compete for food with wild species and predate on already struggling wildlife, then they’re shot en masse using lead ammunition and passed off as a healthy wild food source. If people want to shoot then let’s restore large areas of habitat and organise sustainable harvesting of wild birds.

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I’m kind of surprised the UK hasn’t banned lead shot yet. Here in Canada its use was banned for migratory game bird hunting in 1997. There is a complete ban in many public use areas as well. It is still technically allowed on private land and for hunting upland game birds but most hunters I know have made the switch to lead alternatives completely. Unfortunately we are still feeling with the toxic effects of legacy lead from hunting and many other human activities.


Lead weights for fishing are also pretty ubiquitous. this is what I found for the us:,around%20the%20waters%20we%20fish.&text=In%20general%2C%20the%20laws%20prohibit,sinkers%20weighing%20under%20one%20ounce.

IE there’s only a few states that ban them at all. Which… seems like a big problem. Even if it got banned nationally though, I feel like it wouldn’t help much without a serious public relations campaign, because I guarantee that my dad has some decades-old lead split shot knocking around in the bottom of his tackle box. Hell, I probably do. (I need to remind myself to buy some non-lead sinkers next time I go fishing)

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A few years ago I went back through my old fishing gear and the stuff I inherited from my father and got rid of all the lead. In my father’s stuff I found what I think must have been one of the first lead free sinkers. It had to be at least 30 years old. Sometimes change is hard and slow.


For sure. And its something you wouldn’t even think of - stuff like tackle, you might buy a baggie of split shot and unless break your line a lot, which hopefully you’re not because that’s a lot of plastic line in the environment, you may never need to buy another bag. Or at least not for years and years.

I might have a talk with my dad next time I go fishing with him and see if I can get him all new weights, I’m sure he’d be down for it.

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There is a joke around here that if you really want to help a species, open a hunting season on it. Because people go to extraordinary lengths to preserve and enrich habitats for those hunted species. And as a by-product, other species benefit from those habitats as well. Hunters pour millions into the preservation and even reclamation/restoration of habitat to benefit game species.

Stop hunting and you’ll probably see fewer species overall due to habitat loss. People will just turn the land into yet another agricultural/monoculture (i absolutely despise monocultures like all the pine around me grown for lumber) desert or just develop it because it has no other benefits to them.

I am not a hunter but I know many ethical hunters who work hard at setting aside habitat and enrich it as well as donating to many nature preservation entities such as the Nature Conservancy. They also work with officials monitoring wildlife disease such as chronic wasting disease in deer. They aren’t all evil killers the way they are largely portrayed by the media.

I really wish people wouldn’t consider all hunters to be lowlifes. There are many ethical ones and in fact they are probably the majority but they get lumped in with the bad apples and the entire sport is denigrated because of it.

They probably contribute more to wildlife than most other groups, sadly enough. And yet they are usually vilified. There are bad people in any group.


It’s not so surprising when you look at who does the shooting and who makes the laws. Lord Shootington doesn’t want to ruin his very expensive antique shotguns so lead shot is the only option. Shooting in the UK would barely exist if it wasn’t the hobby of the rich and influential.

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Good point. That was an argument that was made here too. People adapted though. Quickly.

There are definitely ethical hunters, but unfortunately - and like with every other controversial topic - sometimes the loudest and most obnoxious ones end up being the poster children. And that really isn’t fair.

There’s a farming youtuber I watch (who is a hunter himself) that absolutely got in to it with some hound hunters a while ago because the hounds kept chasing bears and ending up on his property, despite him having no trespassing signs posted properly. Just absolutely freaking out his livestock dogs in the middle of the night - and the amount of blowback he got for making videos about it was ridiculous, despite him just wanting people to control their animals and not trespass.

As an aside, I really wish someone in my family was a deer hunter, because I really do enjoy me some venison. Anyone in Ohio have any to donate? ;p

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Not always. Some hunting is done with the intent of removing predators.