Whether it be lurking through the brush with a bow in search of deer, or picking off wolves with a high-powered rifle from the comfort of a helicopter, Americans have a long history of hunting for sport -- but this love-affair with killing animals has apparently been fizzling over the years. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 33 states across the country have seen a drop in the number of hunting licenses sold in the past two decades. Experts suspect that the expansion of suburbs and the increasing popularity of things like social media among kids may be to blame for the decline. Stalking friends on Facebook, it would seem, has become more interesting than stalking wildlife with the intent to kill it.With fewer hunting licenses being sold in states throughout the country, wildlife agencies have seen a drop in revenue, forcing cutbacks to staff and suspension of certain services. In Pennsylvania, where declines have reached 20 percent in the last two decades, wildlife may be enjoying the reprieve, but the Game Commission is not.
"The revenue we have comes from license sales; we don't get any money from the state's general fund," commission spokesman Jerry Feaser told the Beaver County Times. "We're having to make do with less, and that impacts our ability to manage the wildlife population."
In some places, the loss of interest in hunting has been even more dramatic. Over the past 20 years, game officials in Michigan have seen the sale of hunting licenses decline 31 percent. During that same period, hunting in Massachusetts dropped off a whopping 50 percent. Nationwide, hunting license sales are down about 8.5 percent, says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Some experts suspect the decline may be due to the encroachment of suburban development into areas traditionally used as hunting grounds. Still others, like Feaser, believe that technological distractions may have contributed to the younger generation's loss of interest in killing wildlife for fun.
I remember when you had to stand up and walk over to the TV to change channels, and now we have hundreds of channels available. And if you had a computer in your house in the 1980s, it meant one of your parents was working for NASA.
Families, and kids especially, have so many options these days. It's a little hard for hunting to compete.
The death rattle of some animal unfortunate enough to be shot with a hunter's bullet or arrow, apparently, isn't quite as nice to listen to as all the bells and whistles on today's high-tech gadgets -- which means the weapon of choice nowadays just may be Angry Birds.
While hunting may arguably play an important role in maintaining the balance of certain ecosystems, the trends growing away from such activities could have positive implications; Maybe this decline in hunting is in some ways indicative of a change in attitudes about the sanctity of life, of a desire to let nature be.
If this is true, perhaps a drop in the number of people wishing to kill animals may precede a rise in the number of people trying to save them.