Now its time to go over your personal feelings about hunting with a fine-toothed comb. Harvesting animals is one of the wildlife managers most useful and effective tools. Before we get into how harvesting (hunting, fishing, and trapping) fits into your tool belt (and your feelings about it), lets discuss the reasons why.
In most wildlife habitat, there is a limit to the number of animals the habitat can supply food for. Remember the concept we discussed previously: there is a maximum number of animals that any habitat can support year-round (especially in winter) which is called the carrying capacity.
In most stable wild animal populations, there is a large yearly increase in the population due to reproduction in the spring and summer. This increase in number normally exceeds the year-round carrying capacity of the habitat.
Some of the new born animals will survive and replace older animals who have died in the past year, but most of the young born each year represent a surplus – a surplus that will typically die during the late fall and winter.
The surplus animals put the population ABOVE the carrying capacity – hence some animals won’t get enough food and grow weak, becoming the subject to various types of natural mortality such as:
- Starvation and Malnutrition
- Accidents – in nature or human caused
- Exposure – often a combination of exposure to harsh weather and malnutrition
So how does this all fit together? Why harvest at all? This is what it would look like if we let “nature take its course”
Lets keep all these concepts in mind as we continue this discussion next time with Part II of Wildlife and Harvest.