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February 2, 2009

The Economics of Hunting

Wildlife watchers outnumber hunters

The Humane Society of the United States

  • More people in the U.S. would rather watch wild animals than kill them. iStockphoto

Data provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) show that the number of adult hunters in the United States has fallen consistently over the past decade.

During the same period, however, the number of adult wildlife watchers, including those who feed, photograph, and observe wildlife, has grown consistently.

There are now almost six times as many wildlife watchers as there are hunters in the U.S. The FWS conducts surveys every five years, with the most recent report published in 2006. 

According to the FWS data:

  • The number of adult hunters declined by more than 10% from 1996-2006, to a historical low of 12.5 million hunters in 2006.
  • During the same period, the adult U.S. population grew by almost 14% to 230 million; hunters now constitute only 5% of the adult population.
  • By contrast, the number of adult wildlife watchers grew by more than 13% from 1996-2006, to a historical high of more than 71 million wildlife watchers.
  • Wildlife watchers constituted nearly a third (31%) of the adult U.S. population in 2006.
  • The 2006 ratio of wildlife watchers to hunters is nearly 12% higher than in 2001 and is more than 26% higher than in 1996.
  • Wildlife watchers contribute significantly more to the U.S. economy than hunters, including nearly twice as much in 2006 ($46 billion vs. $23 billion).
  • Wildlife watcher expenditures increased by an astounding 56% from 1996-2006, while hunting-related expenditures increased by only 11%.

See below for summaries of the three most recent FWS surveys, compiled by The Humane Society of the United States. For detailed analysis, the 2006 survey results are online and can be found on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's website [PDF].

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