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Does hunting hurt wildlife and make animals extinct?

Look at the chart below. What is the biggest problem facing wildlife today? Where is legal hunting on the chart?

Chart showing causes of threatened and endangered species

It's surprising how many people think that controlled (legal) hunting actually reduces wildlife populations. It's true that hunting in the 1800s dramatically reduced wildlife populations in North America. But please remember that market hunters—those hunting for profit!—were generally responsible for killing most wildlife. Market hunting and unregulated hunting by settlers definitely harmed wildlife!

Most people who haven't studied anything about wildlife find it hard to believe that we actually have more wildlife today than we had 90-100 years ago. Nationwide, turkey, deer, elk, and antelope were actually scarce a century ago. Look at the table below to compare the populations then with today's wildlife picture.

Species Estimated Population Then Estimated Population Today Increase
Turkey 650,000 in 1900 7,000,000 977%
Deer 500,000 in 1900 36,000,000 7,100%
Elk 41,000 in 1907 1,200,000 2,827%