Research: Differentiating between regulation and hunting as conservation interventions

The regulation of hunting in the past century helped to arrest widespread animal declines caused by unregulated excess killing. In recent years, however, the scientific and western management literature have mistakenly attributed hunting itself as the conservation intervention.

Wildlife conservation literature and public discourse, too often gloss over the important difference between hunting and the regulation of hunting. This is so common that there is a persistent, misinformed idea that extinctions have been avoided through the act of hunting. Historically, the regulation of hunting, not hunting itself, has averted extinction.

Call for unbiased scientific evaluation of hunting

“Differentiating between regulation and hunting as conservation interventions” is published as an open access paper in Conservation Biology and helps elaborate the important difference between the regulation of hunting and hunting itself.

Read the article now

Authored by Nelson Institute Professor and Founder of the Carnivore Coexistence Lab, Adrian Treves, Kyle A. Artelle from the University of Victoria and the Raincoast Conservation Foundation and Paul C. Paquet from University of Victoria and the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, the article serves as a call-to-action, encouraging scientists to not only explore the true impact of regulated hunting as an intervention method, but to also determine which interventions support the best outcomes for targeted animal populations.

“It’s well established that regulations and enforcement of laws against over-hunting and commercializing wildlife in the 19th and early 20th centuries were essential to preventing extinctions of iconic populations, such as Canada geese elk, and even white-tailed deer,” explained Dr. Treves, lead author of the paper. “But we were surprised how often conservation scientists attributed this to hunting itself, rather than regulation of that hunting.”

“Many wildlife managers believe that hunting should play a central role in conservation efforts simply because they mistakenly think it has done so in the past,” Dr. Paquet added. “I hope they will now understand that regulations with or without hunting are fundamental to conservation and apply that principle to management of all wildlife.”

“Going back decades, one finds agencies and prominent institutions advocating hunting as a conservation intervention (Clark & Milloy 2014). For example, assertions that hunting is an effective conservation intervention in and of itself, without accompanying evidence of positive outcomes for the hunted populations, have been published or promoted by The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, The Wildlife Society, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, and the Wildlife Management Institute (Jackson 1996; Batcheller et al. 2010).” – Adrian Treves, Kyle A. Artelle, Paul C. Paquet, 2018

Impact statement

Overlooking the role of regulation in hunting programs weakens inference about successful conservation interventions and misguides policy.


Treves, A. , Artelle, K. A. and Paquet, P. C. (2019), Differentiating between regulation and hunting as conservation interventions. Conservation Biology. doi:10.1111/cobi.13211

Selection of literature

Artelle KA, Reynolds JD, Treves A, Walsh JC, Paquet PC, Darimont CT. 2018. Hallmarks of science missing from North American wildlife management. Science Advances 4:eaao0167.

Batavia C, Nelson MP, Darimont CT, Paquet PC, Ripple WJ, Wallach AD. 2018. The elephant (head) in the room: a critical look at trophy hunting. Conservation Letters e12565:1–6.

Treves A. 2009. Hunting to conserve large carnivores. Journal of Applied Ecology 46:1350–1356.

Treves A, Artelle KA, Darimont CT, Parsons DR. 2017a. Mismeasured mortality: correcting estimates of wolf poaching in the United States. Journal of Mammalogy 98:1256–1264.

Treves A, Bruskotter JT. 2014. Tolerance for predatory wildlife. Science 344:476–477.

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