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Ph.D. student looks into how hunting management affects entire environment

The hunting community has a reputation for fostering conservation, especially to maintain populations of game animals, but PhD student Travis Gallo wondered how the methods used to manage game species affected the rest of the environment.  

Gallo originally wanted to write what he called “a glorified book review” on existing research, but ended up publishing a perspective piece when he found that the research he wanted hardly exists. This was interesting to Gallo, because it meant very few people were questioning how non-game species fare under conservation methods aimed at game animals.

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“It turned out that there were only 26 studies that looked at the effects of hunted species on non-target species,” Gallo said.

The 26 studies varied in location and focus, leaving Gallo and his team without concrete answers.

“There was nothing I could pick out and say, ‘Oh, this is always good for wildlife,’ and also couldn’t say, ‘This is really bad for wildlife’ — there really is no trend,” Gallo said.

According to Gallo, his research is not a condemnation of hunting, but it implores conservationists and hunters alike to investigate how the maintenance of specific species could be helping or harming other species who share the same habitat.

From there comes a call to action, and for Gallo, that looks like starting the conversation and brainstorming solutions.

“I think the hunting community, and I would consider myself part of that community, is justified in saying that they promote a lot of conservationism,” Gallo said. “The reason a lot of state wildlife agencies that manage game issues … don’t really pay attention to other species is that a big chunk of their money comes from hunting licenses and fishing licenses, and so they sort of have to provide product.”

A possible solution for this is diversifying conservation funding. The Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937, or the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, puts a tax on all things hunting-related and allocates money made for conservation efforts.

Gallo suspects that if there was a similar tax payed by all other nature users, there would be three helpful outcomes. First, there would be more money for conservation because more people would be paying in. Second, the diversification of funding sources would mean that state agencies would not be justified in serving just one user group. The philosophy behind this proposed tax is the idea that if more people are investing in nature, more people will have a bigger sense of buy-in.

On its website, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program’s vision statement states the program’s goal of creating “healthy, diverse and accessible fish and wildlife populations that offer recreation, economic activity and other societal benefits, in addition to sustainable ecological functions.” The website reflects the positive, but specific to one user group, work being done in conservation right now. 

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This tax on non-hunting, nature-related items is hypothetical, but something like it may be necessary to help fund the research that will help scientists fully understand how hunting affects the entire environment.

“Wildlife is already under a tremendous amount of pressure from humans, so if we’re going to deliberately be manipulating the environment with good intentions because you’re trying to up specific populations, we should make sure we’re actually doing our job,” Gallo said.

Gallo just finished his PhD in fish wildlife and conservation biology. To learn more about his research, go to his website or follow him on Twitter @MeLlamoRooster.

Collegian Reporter Tatiana Talesnick-Parafiniuk can be reached online at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @tatianasophiapt.

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