Is deer hunting necessary

Are hunting and nature conservation compatible?

A functional consideration

Hunting is viewed critically by animal and nature conservationists as in large parts of society. The importance of hunting to capture wild animals for food no longer exists. The question arises as to whether hunting is necessary for nature conservation.

Fox hunt - Photo: Reimer Stecher

The original importance of hunting to capture wild animals for human nutrition no longer exists since farmers produce food. The capture of wild animals has since become an individual privilege and is practiced for pleasure or sport. This is where part of the criticism begins, because the joy of killing highly developed animals is perceived as barbarism. Hunting has always been and has always been a form of nature use, and since every use contributes to the ecological pollution of nature and to the endangerment of our own habitat, it is legitimate to examine what influence it has, whether it is detrimental from an ecological point of view, tolerable , is necessary or beneficial for the natural balance.

The landscape is important as a recreational area for all citizens
The recreational value of a region for us humans increases when the biological diversity is high, i.e. when everyone can observe as many wild plants and animals as possible in nature. Today, however, walkers looking for relaxation can only rarely see wild animals and only at great distances because the hunted animals change their behavior in adaptation to the hunting activities. The reenactments make them very shy, change their lounge, increase the escape distance or become active at night. Red deer and roe deer retreat into the woods, the fox only hunts in the twilight and at night.

Deer - Photo: Frank Derer

Influence on biological diversity
Hunting has a further influence on biological diversity, which is a crucial prerequisite for the full functionality of the entire ecological system, on which humans also depend.

Without diversity, functions such as the provision of clean water and clean air as well as permanently usable soil are not possible. Hunting changes the natural composition of the fauna: Wild animals that are interesting to hunt, such as deer, are encouraged when they are fed, for example. Their number increases while their enemies, i.e. predators who are perceived by the hunters as competitors, are pursued and killed. The result is that biological diversity is decreasing.

Buchenwald - Photo: NABU / Klemens Karkow

Biodiversity is decreasing
When hunters release alien hunted species or reintroduce disappeared species, biodiversity does not really increase. The newcomers to our fauna (neozoa) should extend the list of species that can be hunted, and animals such as black grouse that have been reintroduced by hunting circles should also be shot when the population is recovering. In general, they can only survive in the wild if they are intensely nurtured or if the predators that would catch these species are massively decimated or exterminated. Overall, the biodiversity is kept small. The removal of animals for food is no longer necessary in Central Europe, but would be possible for some common species if criteria for sustainable use are observed. One can then skim off part of the excess produced during reproduction. This currently applies to deer.

In the case of migratory birds, it is not possible to determine whether there is a removable surplus. Annual, transnational inventory surveys would be necessary for this. You should therefore not be shot here either. Hunting practice, especially the so-called "Hege" measures, must not affect the non-huntable species and their habitats.

Foxes killed in a fox hunt - Photo: Reimer Stecher

Trophies are not a reason to kill an animal
Other important prerequisites for the sustainable use of wild animals are: The animal must be used sensibly, whereby winning a trophy is not a sensible reason to kill an animal. The hunted species must not be endangered. If all endangered species are removed from the list of huntable species, there will still be enough left to hunt. And it is not allowed to hunt in the few nature reserves if that contradicts the protection goals of the area.

In nature reserves, it should be possible to show all interested citizens nature in a well-considered manner. However, this is not possible if the wild animals are driven away by hunting or are so shy that they cannot be observed at close range. In addition, the principle of "letting nature be nature" applies in many protected areas. Here nature should decide in which direction an area will develop.

Boar cub - Photo: Ingo Ludwichowski

Necessary hunting
There are situations in which hunting of a particular species may seem necessary. In many forests, for example, natural regeneration of the population is no longer possible because the game, which has been greatly increased through tending, eats all the young trees. The effect of game on the forest can be seen when areas are fenced in so that the game cannot eat anything behind the fence. A species-rich young forest emerges.

Without a fence, the game population would have to be decimated in the entire forest to such an extent that, despite being bitten by the game, some young trees still have a chance to grow into large trees of the next generation. Here, the decimation of game for forestry reasons is only necessary for the moment, if at the same time the preservation is restricted in such a way that no unnatural overpopulations of the hunted species arise.

White-fronted geese - Photo: Frank Derer

Nature reserves offer quiet areas
The shooting down of wild animals that cause damage to fields must be carefully considered. The individuals who have not been shot, but are frightened, need considerably more food than undisturbed conspecifics, so that the hunt ultimately causes more damage.

In the case of wild geese, which often appear in large flocks, the effect is particularly clear and the displacement of fields only makes sense if the animals in the vicinity have completely undisturbed areas in protected areas where they can eat and rest. In the Elbe marshes in the Pinneberg district, where a large number of geese rest as migratory birds, the nature reserves on the Elbe offer themselves as such quiet zones. The hunters' wish to be able to hunt geese even here is of little help and runs counter to the objective.

Dead Barn Owl - Photo: Oscar Klose

Do I need to hunt?
When asked whether hunting is necessary to protect nature, there is no plausible, positive answer. Neither the shooting of animals nor the keeping, which mostly only promotes huntable animals on one side, is necessary to protect and preserve nature in our habitat.

The claim often made by hunters that they can regulate their populations by shooting animals is wrong from an ecological point of view. Hunters only decimate the number of animals. The regulation of a population, on the other hand, is a complicated, natural process in which the reactions of the individuals of a species and many external, ecological factors play a much more decisive role than just reducing the size of a population. Practice shows that the hunter is only a poor substitute for extinct predators, because he does not first shoot sick and weak individuals (whose survivability he can hardly recognize himself outside), but intervenes indiscriminately or, in the case of hoofed game, only kills males in order to to receive as stately a trophy as possible. When hunters really do conservation, they do so regardless of their hunting activities.

Bundle yarn fishery - Photo: Sven Koschinski

Is hunting applied conservation?
Hunting is a use and has an impact on nature in our environment. That means joy and fun for individuals. For the majority, however, it limits the opportunities for nature observation. For others, killing highly developed animals is barbaric. So it is understandable that the hunt is viewed increasingly critically. Hunting is defended by some with a lot of emotions, while others are just as vehemently rejected. The arguments of the hunters are - as shown in the regulation - not always correct. Other arguments are not understandable, they work like an excuse, e.g. "Hunting is applied nature conservation".

In fact, hunting has always been a use of parts of nature. Their protection is largely done without any hunting activities.

Abr, ILu act. February 15, 2015

additional Information

Hunting in Schleswig-Holstein

NABU takes a critical look at hunting, but does not reject it in principle. However, he calls for a stronger focus on nature conservation issues.


The tension between nature conservation and animal welfare

In public, nature and animal protection are often lumped together, and both terms are used synonymously. But in addition to similarities, there are also differences and conflicting goals.