Proclaiming that "The end of hunting
is in sight," The Fund for Animals, a national animal
protection group, is celebrating yesterday's release of
preliminary results from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
(USFWS) report showing that the number of hunters in the
U.S. declined by 7% between 1996 and 2001. During the
same five years, the number of wildlife watchers, people
who enjoy wildlife without harming them, increased by 5%.
This latest in a series of reports issued every five years
documents a continuing trend. According to the USFWS, in
1985 there were 16.7 million hunters in the U.S, while in
2001 there were only 13 million, a decline of 22% over
fifteen years. This led Heidi Prescott, national director of
The Fund for Animals, to comment that, "These are
long-term trends, not just a blip in the numbers, and we're
delighted to see that more and more people are trading their
guns for cameras."
The USFWS results showed the largest declines in "small
game" (22%) and "other animal" hunting (31%). According to
Norm Phelps, a program coordinator at The Fund and author
of the report Body Count: The Death Toll in America's War
on Wildlife, "The decline is taking place primarily among
hunters of small game. Since they kill many more animals
than big game hunters, we can expect the total number of
hunting victims to decline as well."
Michael Markarian, executive vice president of The Fund,
noted that, "Hunters now make up only 4.6% of the
population, compared to the 31% who are wildlife watchers.
It's time for the Fish and Wildlife Service and state wildlife
agencies to start paying attention to their own numbers and
stop catering to a tiny special interest group. Wildlife
belongs to everyone, not just the few people who hunt."
Concluded Prescott, "Over a decade ago, T.A. Heberlein and
E.J. Thomson, experts on hunting demographics at the
University of Wisconsin, predicted that by 2050, sport
hunting could well cease to exist. This latest report shows
that they were right on target. The end of hunting is no
more than a generation away."
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