A lot of folks don’t fully understand the process by which wildlife management agencies make decisions about acceptable population sizes for critters, acceptable harvest rates, season dates and weapon choices, and more. The process can actually be quite lengthy, complicated and – at times – politically motivated.
Two factors that impact decision-making a great deal include the *carrying capacity* of the habitat and the *social carrying capacity* of the community.
A recent study conducted by “Responsive Management”:http://www.responsivemanagement.com/ on behalf of the Pennsylvania Game Commission makes for interesting reading, especially if you want more insight into this decision-making process.
While biological information should be at the heart of any wildlife management philosophy, societal attitudes, knowledge and understanding have a huge impact on what our wildlife managers actually do.
This report, entitled “Pennsylvania Residents’ Opinions on and Attitudes Toward Black Bears”:http://www.responsivemanagement.com/download/RM_ENews/PA_Black_Bear.pdf is a great example of how *social carrying capacity* is measured.
Here is how the report starts:
_Responsive Management recently completed a major study to measure public knowledge of and attitudes toward black bears to help the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) meet its goals for successfully managing the species in Pennsylvania. Areas of inquiry include attitudes about black bears in general, opinions on black bear population levels, opinions on the hunting of black bears and black bear management, experience with human-bear conflicts, and knowledge of black bears and sources of information._
The study brought out some interesting facts that are not inconsistent with similar studies conducted in other parts of the country.
_One major finding of the study was that 59% of Pennsylvania residents – hunters and non-hunters alike – think that the black bear population in their county should remain the same. “Most populations appear to be at or slightly above social carrying capacity,” said PGC Wildlife Management Director Calvin DuBrock._
_Self-professed knowledge about black bears among Pennsylvania residents is low: 27% say that they know a great deal or moderate amount (with only 3% saying that they know a great deal), and 73% say that they know a little or nothing._
_The large majority of Pennsylvania residents (70%) support the legal, regulated hunting of black bears, while 23% oppose; 7% don’t know._
There is a great deal more to the study and this summary report but the above information gives an indication of how much can be learned by simply asking the right questions.
So what does all this have to do with sportsmen?
Whether we like to admit it or not, hunters are impacted a great deal more these days because of societal views regarding wildlife and habitat management than we ever have been before. Studies like these not only give us a realistic view of the thought patterns within our community but also helps us understand the facts that may not be known or that may simply be misunderstood by the non-hunting and anti-hunting community.
Part of wildlife management today involves properly educating the public about the purposes, benefits and costs associated with a healthy relationship between humans and our wild neighbors.
As sportsmen and conservationists it is in our best interests to become educated ourselves and then to pass that knowledge on to those around us – in particular to those who do not hunt.
Knowledge leads to understanding, acceptance and ,ultimately, support…