Wildlife research is not directed by hidden agendas aimed at undermining hunting and fishing wildlife opportunities. At MeatEater we have the utmost respect for the work of wildlife biologists and believe their research makes us better hunters and anglers.
At MeatEater, it’s no secret that we believe science-based wildlife research to be a valuable tool for hunters and anglers. We hunt and fish with wildlife biologists on MeatEater and interview them extensively on the MeatEater podcast. We’ve also shared many of their studies on our website and social media pages. We have a great deal of respect for the work they do. The statistics and data provided by biologists employed by state fish and game agencies are the foundations for effective wildlife management in the United States. If state fish and game agencies didn’t have access to the information gathered by wildlife biologists, hunting and angling opportunities in this country would inevitably decline in quality and quantity. We also appreciate wildlife and fisheries science because it makes us better hunters and anglers by allowing us to understand our environment in a more nuanced way. All hunters and anglers can become better informed by delving into these studies, so we strive to pass this information along to our fans.
Fish and game management in this country is incredibly difficult and complicated. Biologists and researchers are often tasked with studies that will help form future management policies. It is important to understand that wildlife biologists who are engaged in a research are simply gathering information. They are not forwarding an opinion or trying to predict an outcome. The information that they gather in the form of data and statistics is then used by wildlife managers as a tool to better understand and utilize various wildlife resources. Only then are regulations regarding bag limits, tag quotas, and season dates implemented. These regulations are not without flaws and lapses, but they are based on the best available science that we have — science gathered by individuals who spend countless hours in the field.
But here’s the rub. Whenever we share a piece of science-based research, there is a predictable outcry from some hunters and anglers who’ve developed a frustrating distrust of scientific data. The blowback we receive ranges from absurd conspiracy theories to second-hand anecdotal evidence that purportedly contradicts fact-based information. The folks who push these criticisms of science usually express their belief that hidden agendas guide virtually every bit of wildlife research that’s out there. These paranoid and cynical efforts to undermine wildlife research ignore the fact that state fish and game agencies are mandated to manage wildlife as a sustainable resource and that the vast majority of their personnel have the best interests of their customers (as well as fish and game that they rely on) in mind when they make their management decisions.
For instance, if wildlife biologists discover that an EHD outbreak decimated a certain whitetail deer herd in Kansas, then it’s likely that wildlife managers will drastically reduce doe tag numbers in that area the following year. That’s sound management, not some tricky ploy by the anti-hunting lobby to take away hunting opportunities. On the other hand, if biologists conducting aerial population surveys determine that an elk herd in Montana is larger than previously believed, and above objectives despite the presence of wolves, then the following season may see more cow elk tags issued. This isn’t a devious scheme concocted by shady government officials to generate revenue by selling more hunting licenses. It’s a science-based decision to actively manage herd numbers by providing more hunter opportunity while reducing wildlife conflicts for farmers and ranchers.
To be clear, no amount of bitching and moaning is going to slow down the amount of scientific research that is shared and promoted by all of us at MeatEater. If anything, the negative comments only push us to post more. That’s because the battle is too important to lose. Folks who have a knee-jerk resistance to scientific findings are the intellectual heirs to people who have caused a tremendous amount of damage over the years. They are today’s version of yesterday’s guy who argued that spike bucks will never grow trophy antlers, that DDT does not weaken the eggshells of birds, that it’d be impossible to hunt the passenger pigeon into extinction, and that the world is flat. Don’t let them confuse the issues this time around. Our national hunting and fishing treasures are too precious to let them naysay it all into oblivion.
The MeatEater Team
Photo by @Mike__C