I am fascinated by wildlife conservation and how it works. Webster’s Dictionary defines conservation as “a careful preservation and protection of something, especially: planned management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect.”
As a person who chooses the outdoor lifestyle and someone who enjoys the role of hands-on conservation in the form of paying monies to participate as well as actively participating by hunting and fishing, I feel very connected to wildlife conservation. I am not a trained professional wildlife manager or a wildlife biologist — not even close. I am not even sure I’d be invited to sit at their table.
Having said that, on a much smaller scale, I have farmed for wildlife and applied practices that have increased my farm’s potential to attract and house more critters on the land. In doing so, I have learned a great deal about the species I am trying to attract — squirrels, turkeys and deer.
It may seem odd to someone not connected to the natural world why we as a group of people would work so hard and pay our hard-earned money to make sure the game animals we pursue are thriving when, after all, we do hunt them. But that is exactly the point of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and its seven guiding principles:
1. Wildlife is a public resource.
2. Markets for game are eliminated.
3. Allocation of wildlife by law.
4. Wildlife can only be killed for a legitimate purpose.
5. Wildlife species are considered an international resource.
6. Science is the proper tool for discharge of wildlife policy.
7. The democracy of hunting.
These principles set up the legal framework that makes the model so successful and has allowed game animals such as the wild turkey and white-tailed deer to flourish, not to mention the protection of non-game animal species.
To keep the balance in check, hunting is needed and hunters are called upon to not only participate but to pay to participate.
Perhaps an example locally might be in order to solidify the point.
Here at home around this time every year, our DNR comes out with a report card on how we hunters performed during the buck season. Hunters in West Virginia harvested 38,776 antlered deer during the two-week buck firearms season.
The 2020 buck harvest was six percent higher than the harvest in 2019, when hunters took 36,796 bucks. The top 10 counties by harvest are Preston (1,469), Randolph (1,428), Hampshire (1,380), Greenbrier (1,317), Pendleton (1,296), Hardy (1,169), Braxton (1,089), Grant (1,088), Pocahontas (1,082) and Jackson (1,063).
“It’s been a good year for deer hunting in West Virginia and these preliminary numbers for the buck season harvest are really encouraging,” said Gary Foster, assistant chief of game management for the WVDNR.
Buck harvests in West Virginia’s north-central region, eastern panhandle and in southwestern counties saw increases of 9 percent, 17 percent and 43 percent, respectively. Excellent harvests in these regions offset declines in the state’s central mountain region and western and southeastern counties, where the harvest decreased by 2 percent, 5 percent and 7 percent, respectively.