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Both “conservation” and “preservation” are used when talking about wildlife management, but does “conservation” mean the same thing as “preservation”?

No! Conservation and preservation are really quite different. Wildlife biologists use both words, but they have different meanings.

Conservation = Wise Use

Wildlife managers know that most wildlife populations have a high birth rate and a high death rate. Many animals are born each year, but few will survive beyond one or two years. Most pheasants, for example, die before they are one year old. The average deer will live only four or five years.

Wildlife managers know that wildlife cannot be stockpiled. Animals will die each year; it’s just a question of how they die. Look again at the outside of the habitat pail. The pail shows some of the different ways in which wildlife die. Where hunting is allowed, fewer animals will die of diseases, accidents, parasites, etc. Where hunting is not allowed, more animals will die of diseases, accidents, parasites, etc. Controlled hunting is an important wildlife management tool.

Biologists often use conservation as a wildlife management tool. Each year some game animals in a stable wildlife population will die. Since wildlife managers cannot stockpile wildlife, they allow controlled hunting. Such controlled hunting helps keep wildlife numbers well within the carrying capacity of the habitat. Controlled hunting also allows hunters an opportunity to enjoy fresh venison, fowl, and other game meat.

When we have stable wildlife populations, conservation benefits wildlife, habitat, and man.

Ducks and ducklings

Suppose that each adult pair of waterfowl produces six young each year and none of the factors that limit wildlife production are active. At the end of the fifth year, the initial pair will have grown to over 2,000 waterfowl.

Preservation = Non-Use

Preservation is also a wildlife management tool. Biologists know that some big game species such as the grizzly bear, the caribou, and the antelope are few in number in Washington. Preservation efforts—protecting their habitats and eliminating hunting of these species—will help as biologists try to rebuild these populations. Other species, such as robins, eagles, and owls are also protected from hunting and benefit from preservation. When biologists use preservation as a wildlife management tool, they want to protect animals and their habitats for future generations.

Which is better for wildlife—preservation or conservation? The answer is that both conservation and preservation are good for wildlife. Each tool is useful, but each tool is used differently. The important job for wildlife managers is to use the tools (conservation and preservation) that allow us to enjoy wildlife today and in the future!