Lessons in Wildlife Management
Initially, wildlife management in the United States was skewed toward protection.
In the early 1900s, for example, wildlife managers attempted to preserve a mule deer herd in the remote Kaibab Plateau of Arizona. Hunting was banned, and predators were destroyed. The results were severe overpopulation, habitat destruction, and mass starvation. The Kaibab Plateau was opened to hunting in 1929, which brought the population into balance with the habitat. Today, a large, healthy herd of mule deer inhabits the area.
Around the same period, a similar event took place in Pennsylvania. Deer had been brought into the state after the native population was thought to be extinct. With most of the predators eliminated and little hunting allowed, the herd grew out of control. As the food supply dwindled, thousands of white-tailed deer starved to death.
From these hard lessons, wildlife managers learned that there is more to conservation than just protecting wildlife. They discovered that nature overproduces its game resources and that good wildlife management yields a surplus that can be harvested by hunters.