Why Is Hunting Bad for the Environment?
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Under the proper circumstances, hunting can be beneficial for specific ecosystems. Naturally, there can be a whole host of unwelcome problems if a prey species gets too overpopulated. Death is a natural part of life, and some animals require some trimming down to keep the Earth in a state habitable for all in existence. However, that does not mean wanton destruction is the solution to the planet’s issues. So why is hunting bad for the environment?
Unchecked hunting can introduce much more ecological harm than it solves. Certain populations could become endangered, the removal of a predator species could cause others to run wild and lower numbers of some animals could prevent pollination. Such reasons are why it is vital to obey the laws and guidelines for hunting areas. Here is why hunting is bad for the environment and when it is useful.
The Negative Consequences of Hunting
As many likely know, overhunting can have severe adverse effects on the environment. Humans have hunted multiple animals to extinction, meaning these creatures have no surviving offspring today. In the last 250 years, nine species of megafauna have gone extinct. Who knows how many smaller animals have followed in their footsteps?
Larger animals are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to surviving hunting. Unfortunately, many recreational hunters find it fun to shoot these animals only to say they had killed one, not using the animal for any holistic purposes. These kinds of hunters are driving multiple animal populations into smaller and smaller numbers. In fact, the top-ranked threat to megafauna is human harvesting, along with habitat reduction.
The United States government once sanctioned the killing of grey wolves to the point where they almost went extinct. Colonizers did not understand what the wolves could do for local ecosystems, but fear and the desire to expand led to killing the animals off en masse. Gray wolves are a top predator, so they could contribute to an ecological collapse were they to disappear completely. Such an event actually happened at Yellowstone in the 1920s.
Overhunting can also create problems for the animals’ offspring. If someone kills their parent before they are old enough to care for themselves, they will not survive. Wild animals are not like humans — they thrive on basic natural instincts. A lot of species do not take in orphans because they have their own children to feed. Thus, these small animals perish, unable to repopulate because they could not live long enough to mature.
While hunting predators can help the prey increase in numbers, it can have destructive effects on the local ecosystem. One example is how the overpopulation of deer is hurting the world’s forests because they love to eat saplings. With lower predator populations, deer are free to wander and eat as much as they can, reducing the amount of new trees. Plenty of animals spread seeds through their waste as well, so fewer amounts of them can affect pollination as well.
All in all, overhunting can devastate both prey and predator populations. If predators have nothing to feed on, they die out as well, leaving other animals to wreak havoc in their wake. Why is hunting bad for the environment? Because it can utterly destroy the balance of an ecosystem when it goes unchecked.
Why Following Hunting Laws Is Essential
Because overhunting can become such a severe issue, it is crucial to follow any and all hunting laws in an area. These regulations help animals and fellow hunters stay safe during the season. They can also change year by year, so it is vital to check with local and state governments to verify the rules of each hunting period.
These laws often consist of season dates and bag limits. The dates identify the period when hunters can go after certain animals. However, they are not allowed to go after all of that species. Bag limits dictate how many animals they are allowed to kill during that particular hunting season. Some might find the rules too stingy for them, but they are incredibly important to heed.
Hunting seasons ensure animal populations are allowed to grow before hunters move in to cull the herd. If they were able to go after the species any time of year, there would be no guarantee the numbers would be as high as they were then. The time limits help prevent overhunting and bag limits make sure there are enough animals to breed later. It is also a matter of respect — only killing as much as one needs ensures others can also gather enough food for themselves.
Additionally, they help avoid leaving any offspring without a parent to fend for them. As stated before, many small animals need their mother or father to feed them or teach them how to hunt until they are ready to be on their own. They will often die if left to their own devices. Following hunting laws helps these little ones be able to grow up and further their species.
When discussing hunting, it is particularly critical to listen to Indigenous voices. Their hunting practices are often much more sustainable because they know protecting the land is paramount to survival.
When Hunting Is Beneficial
Hunting is not always bad. Actually, there are plenty of occasions when it is necessary. As one previous example showed, extensive deer populations can prove rather detrimental to an ecosystem. When their numbers get too high, it is essential to lower them to prevent stunted tree growth and plant extinction. On the other hand, reducing the population of a predator species can be vital to ensure their prey has the chance to repopulate.
Both are reasons why some conservationists say hunters play a valuable role in helping them manage wildlife. By reporting how many animals they killed and where, they can help these conservationists track distribution changes in the creatures’ populations. In turn, doing so can encourage them to investigate why certain species are in new locations or higher numbers.
Is Hunting Bad for the Environment?
The answer to such a question is yes and no. If hunters do what they do in moderation, they provide significant benefits to their ecosystems by participating in the food chain. However, overhunting can have irreparable consequences that destroy the balance of the world. Such reasons are why it is essential to listen to Indigenous people and hunting laws to guarantee the safety of each species on Earth.
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About the author
Rachel serves as the Assistant Editor of Environment.co. A true foodie and activist at heart, she loves covering topics ranging from veganism to off grid living.