The relationship between hunters and conservation is very complex. Under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives, some species are protected from harvest while others may be hunted sustainably. Furthermore, the intensity of hunting, harvest regulations, and objectives of harvest management vary greatly among sites. Hunters can be influential stakeholders in the management of protected areas and must participate in planning to promote constructive relationships. Hunting can be beneficial for conserving biodiversity and maintaining human livelihoods. In some sites, hunting is used as a tool for regulating populations. When conducted in a sustainable fashion, hunting by humans can substitute for predation by carnivores that are absent or very rare. Removing individuals from the population can ensure that the carrying capacity of their habitat is not exceeded. When game populations become overpopulated, this can threaten human livelihoods through crop damages in lowland areas and landslides or avalanches in mountain areas. Typical examples in Europe are wild boars damaging corn fields, cormorants impacting fisheries, and deer overbrowsing mountain forests. Overpopulation of game can also threaten populations of competing species. Hunting can therefore control species whose behaviors can endanger human well-being, biodiversity, and ecosystem functions and services. Common tools for regulating hunting include bag limits, seasonal closures and gear restrictions. Monitoring the species, sex, and size or age class of animals harvested is necessary to adapt harvest planning for ensuring population viability and natural population structure. Such detailed monitoring is often lacking.
Hunting can be detrimental to biodiversity when not managed properly or in the case of illegal hunting and poisoning. Minimizing the persecution of wildlife is critical to consider for site managers. This can be achieved through collaboration with local authorities or policing forces to control the activity. In this case, the site manager may need to organize training and communication to improve the efficiency of the police control. Although unsustainable hunting can generate conflicts, hunters may be incorporated into site management in beneficial ways. They may serve as eco-guards, assistant rangers, and monitoring agents as they know the land well and have an interest in conserving game populations. Such engagement in protected area management by hunters can help ensure sustainable hunting practices.
Links to additional information:
- European Commission 2008. Guide to sustainable hunting under the Birds Directive.
- MATHEVET, Raphaël et GUILLEMAIN, Matthieu. Que ferons-nous des canards sauvages?: Chasse, nature et gestion adaptative. Editions Quae, 2016.
- MATEO, Rafael et KANSTRUP, Niels. Regulations on lead ammunition adopted in Europe and evidence of compliance. Ambio, 2019, vol. 48, no 9, p. 989-998.
- KAYS, Roland, PARSONS, Arielle W., BAKER, Megan C., et al. Does hunting or hiking affect wildlife communities in protected areas?. Journal of Applied Ecology, 2017, vol. 54, no 1, p. 242-252.
- WWF, IUCN, The World Bank: Analysis of legislation and practice of hunting in some EU countries.