Exposing the Big Game

Forget Hunters' Feeble Rationalizations and Trust Your Gut Feelings: Making Sport of Killing Is Not Healthy Human Behavior

Exposing the Big Game

How Hunting is Driving “Evolution in Reverse.”

—Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

—Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Some of the most iconic photographs of Teddy Roosevelt, one of the first conservationists in American politics, show the president posing companionably with the prizes of his trophy hunts. An elephant felled in Africa in 1909 points its tusks skyward; a Cape buffalo, crowned with horns in the shape of a handlebar mustache, slumps in a Kenyan swamp. In North America, he stalked deer, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep and elk, which he called “lordly game” for their majestic antlers. What’s remarkable about these photographs is not that they depict a hunter who was also naturalist John Muir’s staunchest political ally. It’s that just 100 years after his expeditions, many of the kind of magnificent trophies he routinely captured are becoming rare.

Elk still range across parts of North America, but every hunting season brings a greater challenge to find the sought-after bull with a towering spread of antlers. Africa and Asia still have elephants, but Roosevelt would have regarded most of them as freaks, because they don’t have tusks. Researchers describe what’s happening as none other than the selection process that Darwin made famous: the fittest of a species survive to reproduce and pass along their traits to succeeding generations, while the traits of the unfit gradually disappear. Selective hunting—picking out individuals with the best horns or antlers, or the largest piece of hide—works in reverse: the evolutionary loser is not the small and defenseless, but the biggest and best-equipped to win mates or fend off attackers.

When hunting is severe enough to outstrip other threats to survival, the unsought, middling individuals make out better than the alpha animals, and the species changes. “Survival of the fittest” is still the rule, but the “fit” begin to look unlike what you might expect. And looks aren’t the only things changing: behavior adapts too, from how hunted animals act to how they reproduce. There’s nothing wrong with a species getting molded over time by new kinds of risk. But some experts believe problems arise when these changes make no evolutionary sense.

More: http://www.newsweek.com/how-hunting-driving-evolution-reverse-78295

7 thoughts on “How Hunting is Driving “Evolution in Reverse.”

  1. Just another reason to hate hunters.

    Does it piss anyone else off when hunters call themselves “conservationists”? Every time I hear that, it sets my teeth on edge. Much like when I hear someone refer to themselves as a “foodie”.

    (((FACE PALM)))

    • I’m no defender of hunters (or just who qualifies as one is the question) – they’re bad – but at least wild lands are kept open because of them. If not, hello shopping malls, housing developments, golf courses, highways, automobiles which permanently destroy land and force animals into ever-decreasing habitat. Hunters will get carried away with access tho.

      • Not sure I can agree, Idalupine. Hunters are a small percentage of the population. Even in an extreme situation if they were 20 or 30% of the population, they are far outnumbered by non-consumptive recreationalists. I think hunters’ claim that they bear the financial burden for wild public lands and abundant wildlife is a bullshit myth. I believe the opposite is true and that the rest of us subsidize them and always have because we all pay for public lands with our tax dollars. And as you know in Idaho, every single one of us is subsidizing elk hunters directly because the Wolf Control Board, designed to kill wolves to increase elk populations, receives $400,000 a year of general fund dollars.

      • Not all non-consumptive users have conservation at heart – some, I’d even go so far as to say most, are only out for themselves or their ‘personal bests’, and their activities do not protect wildlife, or wildlands. For example, skimobilers, mountain bikers, skiiers, rock climbers, paddlers, are all non-consumptive users I think, but I’d hardly call them conservationists. They are all pushing for more access to more of what was once free of us. Accomodating these activities is toxic for wildlife and wildlands, as I think there is a post on this site that discusses how many of our human activities push wildlife into further areas.

        Hunters are a small percentage of the population – but true conservationists are probably the smallest percentage of the population.

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