Wildlife

Oh Deer

30 million of Bambi's buddies are on the loose in the U.S., causing crop damage and car accidents. Markets can help.

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In 1900, the last known passenger pigeon to be hunted was supposedly shot by a boy in Ohio. Seven decades later, he said he had no idea what type of bird it was at the time. The species, which once traveled in flocks so vast that they darkened the sky for hours at a time, had served as a plentiful and cheap source of protein for 19th century settlers making their way westward. While early Americans hunted the birds for food, professional hunters later massacred them for sport. All the while, the pigeon's nesting territory and forest habitat were gradually eliminated as white men plowed their way to manifest destiny. In 1914, when the last captive pigeon died in the Cincinnati Zoo, a species that had once numbered in the billions was extinct.

Out of this era came a new approach to managing wildlife—or rather, the first attempts to bother with a concerted approach to managing wildlife at all. European settlers who had discovered a continent teeming with game saw little need to regulate who could take how much and from where. Wildlife was an open-access resource, a "commons" to be exploited with no regard to notions of scarcity. But zero limits on hunting, combined with widespread habitat loss from clearing lands for agriculture and other uses, took their toll. We sent the passenger pigeon to extinction; slaughtered American bison indiscriminately on the plains; extirpated white-tailed deer from many eastern areas; and decimated populations of beavers, minks, and other valuable and trappable furbearers.

With many fauna depleted from sea to sea, hunters and early conservationists began to develop the "North American model" of wildlife management. One of its key tenets: eliminating markets for game and wildlife products. As a definitive report published by The Wildlife Society recounts, old boys' networks like the one found at the New York Sportsmen's Club played a significant role: "The club's membership included many influential lawyers, judges, and politicians, who often acted in their official positions on behalf of the club. At a time when there was limited or no government oversight on wildlife, they drafted, led efforts to enact, and enforced the first game laws directed against market hunting."

Eventually, states began to regulate the taking of wildlife. They instituted license systems, bag limits, and hunting seasons. The federal government played its part as well, via the Lacey Act of 1900, which effectively outlawed commercial hunting nationwide "and remains the most powerful legal tool to combat this activity," as the report put it.

The upshot is that selling products from wild game animals has effectively been illegal for more than a century, a source of great pride among many sportsmen and -women. That status quo suits most environmentalists, too. Regulation managed to close off the commons, and many species rebounded. It's an oft-touted conservation success story. Yet it has brought about new problems that stem from a new reality: wildlife overabundance.

As it becomes clearer that the current regulatory scheme is counterproductive to managing wildlife in an era of plenty, it's worth exploring whether markets could provide incentives to deal with animal populations that have gotten to nuisance levels.

By 1900, the white-tailed deer population in the United States had plummeted to 500,000. Now there are perhaps 30 million roaming our continent, where they trample crops, pick over gardens, and bound across highways. Every year, deer and their ilk are involved in more than a million vehicle collisions, causing dozens of fatalities and costing billions of dollars.

"Today, it is quite likely that more people live in closer proximity to more wild animals, birds and trees in America than anywhere on the planet at any time in history," journalist Jim Sterba wrote in 2012's Nature Wars: The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comebacks Turned Backyards into Battlegrounds. Sterba has documented the far-fetched approaches some communities are taking to deal with their whitetail worries, like spending more than $1,000 per animal on sterilization programs on Staten Island or shelling out about a third of that to bring in sharpshooters to cull herds from Illinois to Connecticut—often to little effect, given the uphill biological battle against cervine fecundity.

Part of the reason for the rise of these programs is a steady national decline in the original wildlife management tool: sport hunting. Participation has fallen from 11 percent of American adults in 1960 to just 4 percent today. Changing preferences and shifting demographics are behind much of that decline, but there are other factors at play too. Sterba notes that in Massachusetts, "it is not legal to discharge a firearm within 150 feet of a hard-surfaced road, or within 500 feet of an occupied dwelling without the owner's written permission.…Because the Bay State is densely populated and has a lot of roads, these rules have the effect of making huge sections of the landscape"—60 percent of the state's 5.2 million acres—"off limits to hunting with guns."

The North American model and the state and federal regimes that followed it have been full of holes and contradictions. For example, they've long permitted trapping and marketing of beavers and other mammals. "If the modern system of regulations and law enforcement is enough to guarantee that fur can be taken sustainably," writes Chris Madson, retired from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, "then I struggle to understand why it can't regulate the market in other wild animals."

There are many exceptions beyond furs, including hides and meat from alligators, wild seafood, and numerous imported products. So while you can wear a beaver felt hat, buy a wallet made from American alligator leather, or eat Pacific yellowfin tuna, you won't find wild venison at a U.S. grocery store. (Hunters can give meat to friends or donate it to charities, but it remains illegal to sell wild game in most states. If you find venison at a supermarket or restaurant, it's probably farm-raised red deer from New Zealand.)

Legal markets for venison might not solve deer population problems entirely, but they could be a tool to align incentives better and help fund culls. "Instead of being donated to food pantries or sent to landfills," Sterba has contended, "the venison and byproducts could be sold, perhaps as a locavore delicacy, to recoup some costs" of thinning the herds. In a 2012 article for the Wildlife Society Bulletin, seven researchers floated the idea of licensing commercial deer harvesters to help manage overabundant whitetail. That's the basic approach Australia has taken with its most prominent nuisance animal, which also happens to be a national symbol: the kangaroo.

Australia has an estimated 50 million 'roos—roughly twice the number of Australians—that destroy crops, gorge on forage meant for livestock, and tear up golf courses. Licensed commercial shooters cull herds at night and sell the carcasses to distributors and processors. "Global brands such as Nike, Puma, and Adidas buy strong, supple 'k-leather' to make athletic gear," reports National Geographic. "And kangaroo meat, once sold mainly as pet food, is finding its way into more and more grocery stores and high-end restaurants." In 2017, the country's kangaroo industry generated $29 million in exports to more than 50 countries.

The state of Florida has a similar, if reptilian, issue. Alligators went from being one of the original endangered species in the 1960s to becoming so prolific that residents can now call an emergency phone line to get licensed trappers to remove gators from swimming pools, neighborhood lagoons, and any other body of water one might wander into. The trappers are allowed to keep and sell the skins and meat from the animals they capture. In 2017 alone, the state received more than 16,000 complaints, which led to nuisance trappers harvesting 8,184 alligators. (The statewide population is estimated at 1.3 million.)

If gators seem fierce, they're not nearly the nuisance that feral hogs are. A group of wild pigs can root up an entire crop field overnight with their strong snouts, and the swine inhabit at least 39 states. Costs attributed to them run as high as $2 billion annually.

About half of the nation's 5 million wild hogs are in Texas. Part of that state's strategy to deal with them is to allow live-trapped hogs to be sold to butchers and game preserves. That helps drive a serious hunting industry that taps into the demand to kill hogs recreationally—including outfits that charge about $2,000 per hour to shoot hogs from helicopters with AR-15s.

Protests over the harvesting techniques aside, hog hunting generates controversy because the origins of Texas' pig infestation can be traced to people intentionally releasing them onto hunting ranches to be tracked and killed for sport. The wild hogs that benefit the hunting industry cause more than $50 million in damage to the state's agricultural lands each year. Still, the delicate equilibrium of the feral and fertile swine seems akin to gators in Florida—there are a lot of them, they don't seem to be going anywhere, and the markets that have cropped up around them may stand the best chance of getting a handle on abundant populations.

A three-year study by Texas A&M's agricultural extension service found that hunting and trapping can reduce the economic impact of feral hogs by about two-thirds. In Missouri, a state rep wants to try a similar approach by allowing meat from wild hogs to be sold as bacon, ribs, and pork roast.

For some, the idea of any shift back in the direction of market hunting will be anathema. But the era in which the American bison was nearly annihilated is long gone. The extinctions and near extinctions of the 19th and early 20th centuries resulted from game being treated as an open-access resource. Today's state-led management of the wildlife commons is far from perfect—the billions of dollars in annual crop and vehicle damage caused by overabundant deer populations attest to the issues that remain—but that's kind of the point. Commons, which by definition are owned by everyone collectively, are hard to manage and easy to exploit. Embracing market tools could help turn wildlife into assets that property owners and hunters want to keep around rather than liabilities.

Despite nostalgic narratives about a sacrosanct decision to end commercialization in the 1900s, markets have a long history of playing a part in managing wildlife. Commercial hunting and trapping already underpin the management of beavers, alligators, kangaroos, and more. Much of Europe takes it as a given that wild game is sold and bought—Italy is known for wild boar (it often goes with pappardelle), and you can purchase moose meatballs in Sweden. In an era of overabundance, it seems odd, if not outright counterproductive, for so many U.S. state and federal policies to cling to long-standing prohibitions on marketing game.

It's one thing to slam the commons shut in the wake of the last passenger pigeon being shot. It's another to refuse to experiment with market solutions when, in many places, deer have gone from decimated to "eastern devils." If population trends continue, we could see state-level experiments in permitting the sale of game meat. Who knows? One day soon you might find wild venison in stalls at American farmers markets.

NEXT: Brickbat: Not Exactly 'High Speed'

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  1. No mention of the most critical issue – the overabundance of the feral bureaucrat, the most destructive pest known to Man. When are we going to get busy thinning the herd to a manageable population there?

    1. In most states you need a permit to hunt feral bureaucrats. Where do you think those permits come from?

  2. ’twas white men what done it. Really important to mention this in the first paragraph. 2019 is the best.

    1. It’s completely inaccurate. Everybody knows the yellow and brown people were the ones who did the plowing. White men drank whiskey, played poker, and screwed hookers into Manifest Destiny. Reason sucks.

    2. It’s also white man’s fault for not getting here sooner to put the Mastodon and native American horse on the endangered species list.

  3. I have no problem with the sale of game meat, but don’t think that this is the problem with deer. As noted the number of hunters is declining. Those declining numbers still have a large (overly large in my view) influence. They want higher deer populations for the hunt and oppose regulations that would lower the population. Today’s hunter doesn’t need the meat and instead want trophies. So hunting focuses on the bucks. Want population control you need to kill the does. In Wisconsin the deer herd is infected with “Chronic Wasting Disease” or CWD. CWD a population driven disease. Yet efforts to control the deer population barely exist because hunters like more deer. I therefore suspect you would have real problem passing a bill allowing game meat sales because of sport hunters concerns about not having enough deer for the hunt. I also note that being in my sixties, I don’t worry about eating Wisconsin deer. I would not recommend it for young people. I will die of something else before the CWD prions get to my brain. A young person would be taking a greater risk.

    1. Yeah, if you allow market hunting of deer in PA you’ll have hunters showing up to protest in numbers like Hong Kong.

      Our problem is that the deer have moved from game lands to the suburbs, where you can’t shoot them because of safety zones. I’m in a neighborhood on a forested hill, and my backyard is full of them, unfearful of any hunter. Only my little dog scares them.

      1. Pick up a bow. As long as the deer dies on your property, you should be fine.

        1. Have you ever shot a deer with a bow?

          1. Fine, don’t use a bow. Go Rambo and tie a hunting knife to the end of a long stick.

        2. Please do not take this advice without reading your local laws very, very carefully. Many jurisdictions count bows as “firearms” for the purposes of the safety zone and discharge regulations. My community goes so far as to include slingshots in the list.

          Being on your own property is no defense, especially if your property is smaller than the safety zone. (And since the safety zone is usually defined on the basis of high-powered rifles but applied equally for everything of lesser power, it’s almost a guarantee that your property is smaller than the safety zone.)

          1. Not to mention, as I was vaguely suggesting, ‘lights out’ kills with a bow never happen. So, unless your estate is several dozen acres, the odds of a deer getting shot on your property and dying on your neighbors, who’s ire you were seeking to avoid, is exceedingly high.

      2. Urban and suburban deer can be a problem, but can be addressed when necessary. The best way is to bring in professional hunters and to do the killing in a large park. It is usually done at night, the park is closed during the harvest, and the hunters use specialized equipment (lights and limited range ammunition). It is not pretty, it is not sporting, and it is not hunting. It is pest control. It is always controversial (people love their deer) but it is necessary.

    2. re: hunters oppose population control regulations

      I’m not buying it. Hunters are not hunting in suburbia. They have no interest in and less control over deer management policies in those areas. Yet those are the areas most affected by the overpopulation. In rural areas (where people do hunt), there is no overpopulation problem.

      1. Sorry but you are wrong about opposition to population control regulations. Hunting rules to increase the harvest of antlerless deer (does and young deer) are always opposed. You want population control you have to take out the antlerless deer. And there of over population in rural areas. Not in heavily forested northern Wisconsin, but significant over population in the rural agricultural regions. As was mentioned by others the alteration of the habitat favors the deer over there natural predators.

        1. Can confirm. Missouri is begging hunters to shoot more does, with extended seasons and extra tags, but hunters just want big bucks. There are wealthy hunters who own farms or acreages strictly to fatten deer. They’ll plant it with deer’s favorite forage and only hunt every few years or when a monster has been spotted.

          And where do you think the most accidents happen? Isolated rural roads. I actually managed to hit two in less than an hour’s drive several years ago while coming home from work.

    3. My understanding is that manmade alterations of the landscape have made more of it hospitable to deer and less of it hospitable to their predators. Deers like narrow clearings in forest, and so are perversely drawn to road rights of way and gardens. Big cats and canines are repelled by such surroundings.

      1. Might also have something to do with the virtual extermination of most large predators.
        In the West, where wolves have been reintroduced, the large herbivore populations are trending towards more sustainable levels.

    4. You are full of crap.

      Your “hunters want more deer so the herd is mismanaged” mantra is the sort of base lie that typically infects DemonCRAPS when they talk about Trump and “Russia Collusion”.

      It’s true that most hunters want there to be game. That’s why the greatest supporters of conservation are hunters. We don’t want other species to become “carrier pigeons”. As you correctly point out, CWD is a result of too many deer – and hunters know that. However, I don’t know of any state that treats deer as the pests that they’ve become. So far as I know, all states require a game tag for deer, and the number you can take is strictly limited. So hunters are effectively prevented from culling the herd.

      One exception I know of is in Pennsylvania where farmers can get tags good for 50 deer at a time. They shoot them to prevent crop devastation. When they have 50 carcasses stacked up, they call the game warden who issues a new permit and hauls away the dead deer on a flatbed truck. Other states may have similar programs. It’s nothing to shoot 50 deer in a couple hours near a corn field. But it’s not “hunting”. It’s pest eradication.

      Here’s the bottom line: Most hunters today DO hunt for meat and the enjoyment of hunting. Relatively few hunt for trophies. Those that trophy hunt tend to be wealthy dick heads or VERY dedicated hunters who aren’t interested in mere 12-point bucks. (And are frequently bow hunters or black powder shooters.) Neither group likely exceeds 3% of hunters. I’ve actually never even met a fellow hunter who was only in it for the “trophy”. The decreased need for wild meat, greater restrictions, fewer places to hunt and concern for disease means there are fewer hunters. Concern for CWD infection (which is perilously close to Creutzfeldt-Jakob in humans – both involving malformed prions) significantly reduces hunting for meat in those areas with the most deer… which puts the lie to your “trophy” claim. If most hunting were for “trophies” this wouldn’t matter – so again, you’re simply wrong.

      The overall effect is fewer hunters, bigger herds, more disease – just the sort of result you might expect from inept government regulation.

      1. You have missed my point about the opposition to harvesting antlerless deer. Programs to increase the harvest of antlerless deer have met significant opposition. You can not control the population if all you harvest is bucks.

        As for CWD, if we found a similar disease in an agricultural population (dairy herd, beef herd or sheep) there would be no question about the action. The herd would be slaughtered. But we will not do that to the Wisconsin deer herd. Wisconsin hunters need to reduce the herd size significantly (I would say start at goal of 1/3 the current size). So the correct action is to hand out deer tags like Halloween candy. Put them in a punch bowl and tell the hunter to grab a handful. Then have them come back when those are filled.

      2. I live in PA, and hunt in PA and I have never heard of the 50 deer permit program you describe. There is DMAP and bonus tags, but no 50 deer permits.

        I also know a lot of hunters get doe tags and purposefully do not fill them to keep the population up, so they hunt only trophy buck….

    5. Not all hunters are as you portray.
      I have hunted in Wisconsin — might be back at it next year (knee trouble). The family group I hunt with will shoot any good-sized deer that comes near — our catchphrase is “If it’s brown, it’s down!”
      Even those hunters who are into trophy hunting generally catch on to the Quality Deer Management idea of shooting antlerless deer and those with big racks in the hopes that those with small racks will mature.
      On the other hand, I have met people who won’t shoot a doe unless they have to (Wisconsin had a few seasons with a requirement to tag an antlerless deer before you could tag a buck). Folks on the next forty over were trying to kill just enough antlerless deer to cover the bucks they were hoping for. We thought they were nuts.

      1. Definitely agree many good hunters out there. The QDM program is good, but is also voluntary and may not provide the kind of population control necessary. I am concerned that those who will not shoot antlerless deer have too much influence.

        I also like and appreciate the philosophy behind “If its brown, it’s down”. I wish it were more widely accepted and used.

  4. Yet another sordid tale about the absence of property rights but that never once fingers the problem.

    1. Bingo.

      The moral of the story in the tragedy of the commons isn’t that we need centralized planners to plan the commons for us. We know that doesn’t work from countless examples, including the examples in this very article.

      The moral of the tragedy of the commons is that owners who stand to gain or lose from the very land they own are the best managers of those resources.

      1. While I generally agree with the sentiment, it’s not really that simple in practice.

        Property rights do exist for wildlife, but that wildlife has to be obtained outside the commons and contained separate the commons. High-fence ranch owners and their guests don’t have to abide by state bag-limits, seasons, etc.

        A landowner can be a great steward for wildlife, but if the neighbors don’t give a shit about wildlife and overharvesting, then that’s going to have effects that extend beyond property lines.

        1. I had hoped there would be more discussion in this thread on this topic.

          The tragedy of the commons is easily solved when it involves static property (real estate). In such situations, a commons is arbitrarily created in the legal system, and it’s easy enough to do away with. However, when property such as wildlife, water, air, or (to a lesser extent) mineral resources exist in a physical commons whereby ownership cannot be clearly demarcated, it presents a situation that makes it difficult to protect the property rights of individuals.

          Perhaps the go-to libertarian solution is appurtenance to real estate and use of the tort system for recourse of impairment. In circumstances of relative resource abundance this probably works well enough. However, in situations of scarcity and resource depletion, it might present problems in terms of an overwhelmed court system, inherent favoring of entrenched and powerful interests, and a set of precedents that are more convoluted and unjust than a proactive regulatory framework.

          Not advocating for anything in particular, just food for thought I guess.

  5. I missed the part where it explains how much fuller and richer my life would be if only 10,000 passenger pigeons a day flew over my house and cars and covered them in shit.

    News flash. Extinction is a necessary part of the theory of evolution. And, oh by the way, man is part of nature. It doesn’t matter to Darwin if we killed off the passenger pigeon, or if a million eagles did the deed.

    1. Well, it’s still what happened. Nothing wrong with mentioning it.

    2. Here, here! Every story about the Passenger Pigeon carefully keeps from mentioning what an unbelievable PEST the damn birds must have been.

      1. They must have been pests, that’s a big reason people kept shooting them even after they didn’t need to for food.

        1. They absolutely were, farmers would lose crops and to combat losses, trap the pigeons well beyond their ability to process them. Like other “extinctions” it was as much eradication as it was extinction.

      2. I think they also embellish the “extinction”. There are something like 350 species of pigeons and disentangling them is exceedingly difficult because there’s lots of inter-species breeding that happens/happened and many species are strictly defined by behavior. We lament the loss of the passenger pigeon as an eradication/extinction event but nobody heralds the creation of the labradoodle species which, arguably, has greater genetic diversity and more clear lineage.

        1. “Nobody needs 350 different kinds of pigeon” – every socialist ever

    3. Passenger pigeons were a very different species from the common rock pigeon that infests most cities. Rock pigeons are disease-ridden rats with wings. Passenger pigeons on the other hand were, by all reports, much more delicate and pretty cool.

      1. Disease-ridden rats with wings is a modern interpretation. 1900-era passenger pigeons were just as lousy as rock pigeons, people were just more tolerant or ignorant of such filth at the time.

        Most people find (or would find) geese, ducks, quail, pheasant, etc. pretty disgusting today and you’d be hard pressed to say that rock pigeons would transmit disease but passenger pigeons wouldn’t.

  6. There are far more bears, deer, squirrels, foxes, raccoons, and the like in my rural/suburban heavily forested town in New Jersey than I’ve ever seen in the remote wilderness of the Rocky Mountains or up in the Adirondacks.

    1. I remember as a kid my parents driving out to the country at dusk to “see the deer.” Now you can see deer everyday on my parents’ street. Deer are about as exotic as squirrels. But those big doe eyes….

    2. That’s due to an absence of wolves. The critters in your backyard are their prey.

      The article doesn’t mention it, but it blows my mind that, about 30 years ago, wolves were imported from Canada by the government to fix their extinction in the West, and today they are once again being wiped out with encouragement from the government. And these jag offs are supposed to be “central planners,” you say? I wouldn’t trust them to plan a backyard barbecue.

      1. You also see more animals anywhere when you are driving. And the suburban wildlife is accustomed to human presence so they stick around.

      2. The eastern coyote is slowly evolving to be bigger and bigger so that they can take down deer to take advantage of this widely available food resource.

    3. This week in my neighborhood I caught a garter snake, smelled a skunk, and counted at least a half dozen deer in my backyard.

      1. For some reason I am picturing you picking up a skunk by the tail and sniffing its butt.

        1. Also, sorry for accidentally flagging your comment. I don’t know what genius took away the confirmation step. The button is so easy to click as you are scrolling on the phone.

        2. That’s more or less what I envisioned by “smelled a skunk” too. You know, the skunk inspector deciding whether this skunk needs a bath. Probably checked the deer’s teeth too.

    4. Hi, neighbor! However, by the time I moved out of the Bronx, those changes were happening there too.

  7. “…cervine fecundity. ”

    Now that’s writing.

    1. Damnation! I should have reloaded.

  8. “it is not legal to discharge a firearm within 150 feet of a hard-surfaced road, or within 500 feet of an occupied dwelling”

    How about a crossbow?

    1. How about a crossbow?

      Due to “common sense and reasonably restrictions” on the RTKBA; only if you’re handicapped or the road marks the border with CT or RI and you’re not on the MA side.

  9. cervine fecundity

    I learned a new big word today.

    1. Yes, but like the author, you will look like an ass for using it.

  10. “for so many U.S. state and federal policies to cling to long-standing prohibitions on marketing game.”

    Coyotes have taught us that state and federal initiatives to eradicate them from the landscape don’t work. There have been bounties on these creatures for years yet they continue to increase and spread. There are perhaps even new man eating hybrids appearing.

  11. Commons, which by definition are owned by everyone collectively, are hard to manage and easy to exploit. Embracing market tools could help turn wildlife into assets that property owners and hunters want to keep around rather than liabilities…Much of Europe takes it as a given that wild game is sold and bought

    Kind of funny that Europe is being cited as an example of how markets work in synch with commons – when the core of the recommendation here seems to be to get rid of the commons altogether (and usually in the US that means via cronyist privilege and corruption) and the core of the European approach (and a few oddball Americans like Elinor Ostrom) is to make the commons work when the commons is the only legal structure that can work. This ain’t unusual either.

  12. I come from a hardcore hunting and fishing family though I find both activities boring and would rather do other things in the country.
    That said, when asked I list ‘wild game’ as my favorite food.

    I worked with a 30-year old receptionist – totes city girl – who never has seen a duck. When a mallard and hen walked across the parking lot she was mesmerized: “Do they bite?’ 😀

    1. The correct answer to “Do they bite?” is always yes. Golden retriever? Yes. Mildew? Yes. Frost? Yes.

  13. I’ve commented on this before but I’ve heard that feral pig isn’t good eatin’.
    You’d think if they were, their population would be easy to control.

    :[ <———- this is an emoji test

    1. I read somewhere that they reproduce so fast that you’d have to kill 70% every year just to stay even.

    2. Not necessarily. It depends on what they have for forage, and how large they are when harvested. Young, 100 pound or so, eating acorns? It’s like Ham Squared. Best pork I’ve ever eaten. 300 pounds? Gamy as hell. And yes, they reproduce like crazy. And they’re smart, stay under cover in daylight.

      One reason hunting has decreased is it’s damn expensive. Deer leases cost $1000 for a crowded one. I don’t hunt hardly at all any more.

      1. I rarely hunt. I seldom hunt. I don’t hunt hardly at all any more.

  14. Time to lock and load…and I get dibs on Bambi.

  15. “While early Americans hunted the birds for food, professional hunters later massacred them for sport.”
    Given the descriptions of professional hunters shipping barrels full of pigeons to market by train, it sounds more like business than sport.
    “The flocks were so thick that hunting was easy—even waving a pole at the low-flying birds would kill some. Still, harvesting for subsistence didn’t threaten the species’ survival. But after the Civil War came two technological developments that set in motion the pigeon’s extinction: the national expansions of the telegraph and the railroad. They enabled a commercial pigeon industry to blossom, fueled by professional sportsmen who could learn quickly about new nestings and follow the flocks around the continent. ‘Hardly a train arrives that does not bring hunters or trappers,’ reported Wisconsin’s Kilbourn City Mirror in 1871. ‘Hotels are full, coopers are busy making barrels, and men, women, and children are active in packing the birds or filling the barrels. They are shipped to all places on the railroad, and to Milwaukee, Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston.'”
    https://www.audubon.org/magazine/may-june-2014/why-passenger-pigeon-went-extinct

  16. I recently viewed a doc on Louisiana Nutria, or swamp rat. They were originally imported to grow for their fur. PETA put an end to that and now they are feral. The state pays a bounty of $5 for every tail a hunter brings in. One guy was bringing in about 100 daily. The state is also encouraging people to start eating the meat.

  17. I note everyone is talking about dear. I think Hogs are a bigger problem. Seems to me if they really wanted to get rid of the HOGS in some areas they would set up a hunt where lots of people would drive the hogs to waiting hunters (certified safe) or traps and then either pas the meat out or send it off to be processed. I saw this done in Turkey in the 70s.

  18. The whole commons angle does make some of this stuff messy… I don’t know that something like transitory wildlife really can be managed completely privately. Although certainly people COULD have fenced off hunting reserves, this doesn’t really address the populations living elsewhere.

    Seems to me some minor market mechanisms injected into the regulations makes sense. Maybe something like figuring out approximate target populations in given areas, and then adjusting year by year the cost/number of tags issued. If an area is overpopulated, maybe it should be unlimited and free… If another area dips below target pop it should be expensive. Areas in between are in between.

    Also, allowing commercial meat/hides to be sold could certainly factor in. Obviously with a system like the above commercial hunters would likely go to places where it was free/unlimited to hunt every season, keeping such areas in line, and avoiding areas where they had tag costs. This would change every season, and they would change where they hunted.

    BAM. Problem solved. I know I sure as shit would order more venison if it were on menus or at the grocery store more often. Can’t imagine there isn’t a market there. And if there is a market the above pricing scheme would almost surely have the effect I mention.

  19. […] If gators seem fierce, they’re not nearly the nuisance that feral hogs are. A group of wild pigs can root up an entire crop field overnight with their strong snouts, and the swine inhabit at least 39 states. Costs attributed to them run as high as $2 billion annually. Read More > at Reason […]

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