A recent article in Mother Jones highlighted the fact that the majority of gun owners in the U.S. don’t hunt, and better yet for wild animals, more Americans actually prefer to watch wildlife than kill things.
According to the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), over 90 million U.S. residents 16-years-old and up participated in some form of recreation related to wildlife. During that year, 33.1 million people fished, 13.7 million hunted and 71.8 million participated in at least one type of wildlife-watching activity including observing, feeding or photographing fish and other wildlife in the United States.
The survey took into account two types of wildlife watching: the first involved activities away from home with the sole intention of watching, photographing or feeding wild animals and the second involved activities around the home, such as feeding and identifying birds, maintaining a wildlife friendly habitat or visiting parks and other areas within one mile of home.
The next generation of nature enthusiasts isn’t far behind, either. Of kids between the ages of 6-15, 1.8 million hunted, 8.5 million fished and 11.7 million engaged in wildlife watching.
Wildlife Watching highlights from the Survey include:
- 71.8 million U.S. residents observed, fed and/or photographed birds and other wildlife in 2011.
- Almost 68.6 million people wildlife watched around their homes, and 22.5 million people took trips of at least one mile from home to primarily wildlife watch.
- Of the 46.7 million people who observed wild birds, 88 percent did so around their homes and 38 percent on trips a mile or more from home.
- Other types of wildlife also were popular for trip takers: 13.7 million people enjoyed wildlife watching land mammals such as bear, squirrel and buffalo. 4 million people wildlife watched marine mammals such as whales and dolphins; 6.4 million enjoyed watching fish; and 10.1 million enjoyed watching other wildlife such as butterflies.
In 2011, wildlife watchers also spent $54.9 billion on related expenses, such as trips and equipment, This amounted to $981 on average per spender for the year, which went up from $45.7 billion in 2006. The study puts the previous $45.7 billion into context by comparing the total revenue to what is generated by all pro spectator sports, all amusement parks, arcades, casinos, bowling centers and skiing facilities.
Wildlife Watching in the U.S.: The Econimic Impacts on National and State Economics, which was last conducted in 2006, found that direct expenditures of wildlife watchers generated $122.6 billion in total industrial output, 1,063,482 jobs and $18.2 billion in state, local and federal tax revenues.
So who’s hunting? Old white guys in rural areas… or more specifically a group of individuals that is 89 percent male and 94 percent white with more than half the group being 45 or older.
Of all the wildlife in the U.S., birds attracted the biggest following. Approximately 46.7 million people took time to observe birds around the home and on trips in 2011.
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