Should Sharpshooters Be Allowed to Sell Venison?
On Oct. 7, The Wildlife Society met in Milwaukee at its annual conference and brought up the topic of allowing limited selling of wild venison. The Society offered this solution to the burgeoning whitetail population, which measures between 30 and 45 million. The Wildlife Society has 10,000 members - scientists, biologists and wildlife managers included.
According to The Wall Street Journal, The Wildlife Society assembled a panel, run by a professional facilitator, and held a four-hour discussion regarding the topic of allowing venison sales. Said venison would not come from 7,800 deer farms in the U.S.; nor would it be imported from New Zealand, which is a major exporter to the U.S. of venison. It wouldn't come from recreational hunters, either. This venison would be marketed as a result of hired professional sharpshooters, culling herds in suburban and urban areas of the country, strictly in accordance with wildlife agencies' regulations.
The forum's topic of selling venison followed on the heels of a report, published in the Wildlife Society Bulletin, and authored by seven ecologists, that suggested adding this method for culling herds from overpopulated areas. The Wall Street Journal also noted that lengthening hunting seasons, allowing more tags and providing for venison donation programs have not made a big enough dent in the whitetail population explosion.
Kip Adams, director of education and outreach at Quality Deer Management Association, participated as a panel member. "It's a landmark panel discussion that has along way to go, if it comes to fruition," he said. Adams explained that QDMA was pleased to be invited to attend in order to represent hunters, who should have a role in discussions about solutions to urban and suburban overpopulations of deer - some reports putting these deer at 200 deer per square mile.
Adams said that 50 professionals attended the session, and attendees realized that this discussion kicked off the first, of what will be many, discussions about this topic. If implemented, in designated areas, Adams said state agencies would manage special hunts with hired professional sharpshooters. The monies collected from the permits would fund the expenses of these hunts, and Adams said the hired sharpshooters would then be able to sell the meat and hides. He is opposed to selling antlers, though, believing that this act flies in the face of the reason for these types of hunts.
The North American Wildlife Conservation Model's second principle, or sister, prohibits commerce of dead wildlife. The report stated that even though our nation honors the principles of the North American Wildlife Conservation Model, we also allow commercial fishing and trapping. Furthermore, we permit logging, which is a means of controlling another natural resource in the market.
Has the North American Wildlife Conservation Model excelled too well in regard to deer? Has it pushed the population of whitetails up so high that state regulations cannot ever control the overpopulation?
Is it time to consider allowing controlled, urbanized deer hunts, and to allow this venison to be sold on the free market?