Duck shooters as conservationists

Subject: Duck shooters as conservationists
From: "Paul Coddington" <>
Date: Tue, 21 Jan 2003 04:15:23 +0000

I lived in the US for several years, where hunting (for ducks, deer, bear, etc etc) is incredibly popular. For example in many parts of rural Pennsylvania (where my wife grew up) the opening of deer season is a school holiday!

Uncontrolled hunting contributed to the sharp decline of many bird species in the US (ducks, swans, wild turkey, etc), including some extinctions (Passenger Pigeon, Eskimo Curlew, Great Auk). Finally the hunters realised that this was a problem and that habitat loss was also decreasing bird numbers and now hunting organisations (e.g. Ducks Unlimited) are actively involved in habitat conservation (look at the website and you might think it was a conservation organisation!), and the fees from hunting licenses (which in the US must be astronomical) are mainly used for purchasing and managing habitat for wildlife. Many of the best wetlands for birdwatching in the US are game reserves, most of which are actively managed to increase waterfowl habitat and numbers. The same may be true in the UK.

Certainly in the US it seems like hunters can have an overall positive effect on numbers of many bird species (especially ducks) due to their efforts at conserving and managing habitat. However a few years ago I remember there was a bit of a flap in the birding community in the US when a vagrant duck from the Carribean appeared at a game reserve in the south-east US and twitchers who travelled great distances to see it were rather dischuffed to find that a hunter had shot it!

I'd be happy to encourage responsible duck hunting in Australia if there was a similar level of investment by hunters and the government (through hunting licenses) in wetland protection, regeneration and management in Australia as there is in the US.

Paul Coddington
Adelaide, South Australia

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