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Unnatural selection: what is killing America's mammals?

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Matt Walker Matt Walker | 10:06 UK time, Thursday, 28 April 2011

Coyote (Image: photolibrary.com)

Carnivores are most susceptible (image: photolibrary.com)

Death becomes all living things.

But the manner in which they die can tell us a lot about how they lived, and the pressures of life they faced.

It can also help reveal what forces are at work in shaping the ecology and future of different species.

So if I was to ask you what is the single largest killer of animals, what would you answer?

Other animals would be a good guess, as would disease, or maybe old age.

But for the large mammals of North America – the answer is different, and to me, quite shocking.

This week I’ve just learnt a startling statistic – the biggest killer of large and medium sized mammals across North America is…


Humans kill more deer, antelope, raccoons, skunks, porcupines, bobcats and coyotes, among others, than any other cause, including predation, starvation, weather, disease and natural causes including age, accident or developmental defects.

What’s more, humans kill more large mammals in North America than all other causes put together.

It’s obviously impossible to monitor how each mammal on the continent lives and dies.

So how can such significant a claim be made?

The statistics come from a piece of science just completed by Christopher Collins and Roland Kays from the New York State Museum in Albany, New York, US.

No hunting sign comonly placed in North America (image: mutantlog)

Hunt bans lead to a rise in natural causes of animal death

They reviewed data from 69 populations of large and medium sized North American mammal across 27 species.

This produced definite records of 2209 animal deaths, of which the causes of 1874 were known.

Of those animals that died from known causes, 52% died by human hand.

Hunters killed 35% of all the large and medium sized animals that died in the sample, with 30% dying after being legally killed by hunters and another 5% shot or trapped illegally by poachers.

Vehicle collisions accounted for another 9% with other human causes accounting for a further 7%, the researchers reveal in the journal Animal Conservation.

The fact that just over one in two of North America’s largest and perhaps most iconic mammals dies at the hands of humans suggests just how unnatural their natural environment has become.

Or in the words of Mr Collins, a postgraduate student and Dr Kays, curator of mammals at the New York State Museum:

"Our results show the variety and pervasiveness of anthropogenic mortality on many mammal species, suggesting that humans cause most mortalities observed in larger mammals in North America."

Carnivores and omnivores appear more susceptible to being killed by people than herbivores. And larger species are more likely to be killed by people, with smaller species being killed by predators.

Though mortality studies have been conducted for many mammal species, this is the first to examine trends across species.

The data looks solid: all the animals were radio tagged, and where required, autopsies performed, to reveal the cause of their demise. While the researchers acknowledge their sample is not random per se, as it relies on monitoring species of interest to wildlife managers, and can only necessarily follow a small subset of North America's mammals, it ranges over 27 very different species and animals that vary by four orders of magnitude in body size.

Other biases are also removed as many of the studies used weren’t even primarily concerned with mortality – they were more general studies into a species’ movement or behaviour, during which the cause of death was recorded.

Caribou (image: photolibrary.com)

Larger mammals face the greatest threat from humans

As to the other causes of death: predation by other animals kills 35% of mammals, while disease kills just 4% and starvation 3%, with other natural causes accounting for 6%.

That raises an interesting question.

By artificially killing so many mammals, via hunting, culling, poaching or driving vehicles into them, are we taking over the role once played by natural selection?

Are we artificially selecting the generations that survive, and in doing so, altering the evolutionary paths of these species?

It’s certainly possible; some studies show that animals, including fish, which are intensively hunted are evolving smaller body sizes, perhaps because they are less attractive to the hunter or are harder to catch.

So we may debate whether we agree with hunting or not. And whether, by taking healthy harvests, or keeping some animal populations in check, it actually helps preserve wildlife and ecosystems.

But do we yet understand the true impact of our actions?

By pre-emptively killing the majority of North America’s large mammals, might we be irreversibly changing the evolution of these species?


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  • Comment number 1.

    The above story does reveal a lot about the problem, but does not see the real issue.
    'By artificially killing', and 'played once by natural selection', indicates that the author and scientists do not take into account that 'WE' are part of nature, and whatever we do IS natural, it is written from a standpoint that mankind is outside of nature itself, and this viewpoint is a culturally driven meme from all agricultural cultures., but not all cultures share this viewpoint especially when you look outside of our agricultural civilisations you will start to see the differences and more importantly 'why' things are different.

    This difference is fundamental to the issues we face, and until the general public wake up and are made aware of the difference then things will continue.

    Of course we are changing the evolution of those species, and any other species on the planet, to think we do not play a part, and are not a part of this global ecological system is pure madness. A madness that believes it lives in a tiny bubble exempt and above the laws of nature.

    Man needs to come to terms with the fact that for billions of years nature did just fine by itself, with man a part of it for a very very long time, much further back than 10k years worth of history dictates.

    Why 10k years of history? Well that was when our agricultural 'experiment' started. That was when some tribes of man decided to try to control the world, to take power over it, to have dominion over it, and to wage war on those that didnt want to do this.
    The difference being, before then, man, like every other species on the planet, only took what he needed, after then, man broke the laws of nature that evolved with him, turned his back on the global 'religions' that evolved with him( yes there was a global religion before agriculture 'Animism', many different styles but all similar) and needed to seek new gods to try to justify this act of warfare on the planet) and started taking more than he needed.
    By taking more than man needs he started down a path that was anti-life, an evolutionary path that leads to a dead end. Evolution continues, but it can lead to end points, eg a species that starts destroying itself, will eventually destroy itself. Progression doesnt always get 'better', but it is up to us to decide which path we follow.

    Whatever we do, nature will keep evolving around us, some species will vanish, others will appear, the planet and life will still be here long after we are gone if we do not change our direction, we may just not recognize it as we see today.

    For all of time species have vanished, and new ones appear, it is an insanity of the 'dominion meme' that we need to preserve species, and to 'save the panet'.

    The only thing we need to do is relenquish this dominion meme, stop trying to control the world and everything on it, and the world will take care of itself since it has since the dawn of time.
    For everything we do to control it , just makes things worse, we just do not see or do not accept it yet.

    We need to spit the apple of the knowledge of the gods back out.

  • Comment number 2.

    In nature, predators will usually go for the weak and injured by preference, whereas a hunter is more likely to go for the largest and strongest because it will look better on the wall. So yes, we are slowly degrading these species by removing their best specimens.

  • Comment number 3.

    If you think shooting a deer from 100 yards away with a rifle is natural, you are either being deliberately awkward or you an idiot.

  • Comment number 4.

    Shane - Excellent comment. Can't really add anything to that.

    The meme in me says we should go on as we are going, but simple maths shows it's totally unsustainable.

    Agricultural man is just a flash in the pan. Maybe we'll manage 15,000 years, but that's nothing compared to the dinosarus 190 million years of natural dominion.

  • Comment number 5.

    Shane, you appear to believe that you are God: you decide what should be done, what is right - first you say that anything we do is natural, then say that we must do differently; you charcaterise it all as a lust to power, which is nonsense. And you do not understand evolutionary theory: it is not about progression but change, and it is not primarily a matter of speciaes appearing and vanishing. As for 'nature' carrying on 'just fine' for millions of years - what do you mean? How did you judge what is 'fine'? How about the several mass extinctions? Was that the world looking after itself? To suggest that we 'took' an 'evolutionary path that leads to a dead end' is simply to demonstrate your incoherence and failure to understand evolution. We may choose paths, but we don't choose evolutionary paths, which are created by genetic variation and natural selection.

    And perhaps you might ask how many species have engaged in altruistic acts. Of course Man has acted in ways which are indefensible on human moral terms (animals and nature are, I would have assumed, amoral and do not form such judgements - in other words, only a human could see these actions as 'wrong').

    Of course, you are in a sense right to question one aspect of this report regarding the idea of 'normal' evolution; there is no such thing. But it seems that the point is that animals are being killed for reasons which do not relate to survival (the 'struggle for survival', by the way, does not refer to fights and battles between individuals or between species).

    As for your strange insistence on 'dominion' - are you entirely unaware of the territorial nature of many creatures, which will attack, and drive off or kill intruders? Is that not dominion? You seem to think that all animals are nice fluffy, friendly creatures, but this territorial instinct, and the instinct for domination is in us BECAUSE we are animals - and such traits can be seen in many other animals. You miss the point - we are the only animals who have the power to choose NOT to be like that; we are not the only animals to have such instincts and urges. I suggest you learn about animals and about evlotuionary theory.

  • Comment number 6.

    I think the main issue is people's divisive opinions over whether hunting for the sake of it is actually justified or not. People killing these mammals rarely do so for sustenance which is the unnatural part of the argument. You will find very few instances of killings in nature, if any, which are for pleasure as they will always be over territory, for food, mating rights or for self preservation. Herein lies the issue and one that has led to the decline and extinction of many animals in the past and into the future.

  • Comment number 7.

    Not surprised. Guns are made to kill. Its amazing how some folk find killing animals fun. Why we cant leave them I dont know. I have no problem with need to live as a predator. This though shows the limits of our evolution to "civilised". The animal we are is only just below the surface (sadly) and our brain power has given total dominace, it dont matter how big,small, strong or weak we can dispose of it without any risk to ourselves. On top of this as we expand by the millions world wide. Animal habitat is being laid waste to everywhere. I guess we will grow like locusts at their expense on the back of available resource, ignored by government and when its all unsustainable we will starve & die out exactly the same as other animals. Population growth beyond reasonable sustainability is going to be a big issue. UK 65 million and rising like mad. If we couldnt import food by Jumbo Jet we would notice the pinch now.

  • Comment number 8.

    The UK has few firearms amongst its population, most animals are portected, and mammals are mostly thriving. The USA has around one gun per head of population, 'Hunting' is seen as a manly thing to do. Mammals are under threat. I wonder if there is a connection.
    I remember talking about hunting in Canada with a collegue. His father owned a farm on the edge of a hunting area favoured by US hunters. After experiance He had to paint COW on his milking herd to avoid them being shot by 'nature lovers' who shot at anything that moved.

  • Comment number 9.

    Hunting as a hobby is immoral. pleasure in killing is abhorent. Trophy seekers are misguided and badly brought up if they believe this makes them superior to other men. Hunting is mainly a man thing. Hunting to eat the prey is acceptable if the food cannot be sourced by conservation controlled means. Vegetarians would insist that nothing short of plant foods should be eaten but even naturally grown plants need conservation control. plundering natural sources is unecessary for the majority of people these days. Education and gun control would help to prevent the extinction of all species and benefit people too.

  • Comment number 10.

    Very interesting article, and the science seems reasonably robust. However I would suggest that it is possible that most of the 335 deaths of unknown cause were not caused by humans, as human caused deaths are, by definition, easier for humans to detect. In this scenario the figure of 52% of mammals being killed by humans would drop to 44% - although this is noticeably lower, it still shows a considerable human impact on how these mammals are dying.

  • Comment number 11.

    I have to agree with the first post in disagreeing with this idea that we operate outside of nature and are therefore somehow replacing natural selection. Any effect that we have on the planet is an outcome of our evolution, which, due to our large brains and dextrous hands, has taken us down a unique path compared with other organisms. We're very different, but to see us as separate is an inaccurate and crude observation. However, this is a small point in the context.

    We design and build guns, and kill animals and each other, but we also use those large brains to protect other species and oppose hunting and gun ownership. Hopefully those in power in North America will have the conscience and the courage to rein-in this decadent and destructive 'hobby' before any irreversible damage is done.

  • Comment number 12.

    The statistics on this article are fundamentally flawed. If the animal death involves a human this automatically means that there was a human available to report the statistic. There are 15% of recorded deaths where the means of death is unaccounted for, these are unlikely to have been caused by humans (e.g. hunters are unlikely to leave their trophies) yet they are thrown out of the statistics before calculating percentages.

    Also they are only reporting definite deaths, which means that a human has either been there at the time of death or has been available to record the death later. Circa 900 human-caused deaths out of 2209 definite deaths ignores the unknown number of unrecorded deaths. Again this is intentionally removing figures where a human is unlikely to have been involved.

  • Comment number 13.

    mcsony, What makes you believe that we will only live for another 3000~ years? We're the most advanced subspecie of all apes, far outdoing the level of intelligence posessed by Homo erectus, which were around for about 1.5million years; all other sub species have survived for at least 100,000 years or more. You've provided poor numbers, for a poor case.

    Evolution did not intend for man to create guns, or to harness the power of chemistry in aid of killing animals. As with global warming, some places will get warmer and colder as a result, with more extreme weather cases affecting animals. Which would see a rise in deaths of the species too quickly, with the added mass 'culling for fun' by humans. Seeing animals being extinct before they've had a chance to evolve even further and make a better subspecies. Killing them off too fast is a worry, and typically it's the only American tradition killing beautiful land mammals.

  • Comment number 14.

    There seems to be a logical fallacy in the above piece. Animal deaths caused in one way or another by humans are bound to be disproportionately represented in records of known animal deaths. I don't know how Collins and Kays collected their data, but the obvious sources - roadkill, hunters' and trappers' reports etc - all require the proximity of humans. Animals that are far from human presence are more likely to have died naturally and less likely to be discovered.

  • Comment number 15.

    Kevin, as a statistician, I couldn't agree more with your two main points there- these statistics are clearly fundamentally flawed.

  • Comment number 16.

    @Kevin Morice. Crossed posts mate. I see we had a similar reaction to this story. Seems like a poor interpretation of data.

  • Comment number 17.

    The high level of depredation of animals in America by "humans" is shocking but not unexpected. Many of the responses given to date, minimise and/or hide behind a scientific ethos. The issues raised are global and suggest a moral bankruptcy in humans, resulting in a lack of responsibility to the other life forms that we share this planet with. There is no longer a need to kill for our food, we have enough. I would like my grandchildren and their children to see real creatures, in a real habitat, and not virtual images on what was, and thus an indictment on what we have done.

  • Comment number 18.

    "This week I’ve just learnt a startling statistic – the biggest killer of large and medium sized mammals across North America is…


    That seems startling to you? Obviously you've never visited an abatoir.

    Pedantic; perhaps. But the word "wild" doesn't appear anywhere in your article, and who is to say that the lives and evolutions of cows, sheep and pigs are worth less than those of wild animals?

  • Comment number 19.

    DaveH (#2) stated that by removing the largest and the strongest members of a species we are contributing to the degradation of the species. There is no such concept in evolution. All we are doing in ensuring that the species has a better likelihood of developing smaller, weaker forms in the future by the removal of the gene expression that causes large, strong animals from the population. To the population, from an evolutionary veiwpoint, smaller and weaker is better, as they don't get killed by hunters.

    At the end, hunters will just not be able to kill as big an animal as they did in the past.

    Besides, humans hunting large mammals to extinction? It's nothing new. We did the same to the gigafauna that surived the last ice age like wooly mammoths and so on.

  • Comment number 20.

    All those saying the statistics are flawed - did you read the article? All the animals were tagged. They then go on their way and a proportion are killed or die of other causes. Assuming the tags don't make them suicidal or have a target painted on them, and that the animals weren't released in Time Square, the human involvement/reporting issue has been removed as far a possible.

  • Comment number 21.

    to C2G,
    i think you misunderstand me, or maybe i wasnt clear enough, no , i do not think i am God, i was trying to point out that since the dawn of agriculture, those involved with that belief structure do , or at least think they have the knowledge of the gods. Its the very core and essence of our culture, this delusional belief.

    To clarify- 'nature doing fine' & ' several mass extinctions', they may be bad for those involved, but nature carried on, life on planet earth on this day is proof of that.

    WE do choose evolutionary paths when we decide to change our entire way of living, which some tribes of mankind did 10k years ago. If some flies decided to stop flying ( however unlikely), and some carried on flying, they would over many generations become different species to each other.
    If you do not think we 'decided' a new path for ourselves rather than were forced into it ,i suggest reading Cain and Abel, or study early anthropology. This story is told as a reminder that we did do just this.
    Before we took this decision mankind could have continued and continued, since we took this decision mankind will join all the other species we are driving to extinction.
    But it is important to remember there is not one right way to live, we should not encourage one way to live anywhere, that just limits biological survival, BUT there are ways we should not live, ways that destroy us and ultimately eliminate us.

    I also do not think all animals are 'fluffy', but they do not wage war as we do, they fight yes, and compete, but do not exterminate.
    Nature is not this violent drama you see highlights of on nature programmes, there is violence yes, but when you watch a lion kill a gazelle to eat its just the action highlight as it makes good TV. You do not see the lion going round killing everything in sight, he will only take what he needs, the gazelles know this and stop running not far away and carry on grazing.
    You do not see the tranquility afterwards.

    I think you are getting territorial instinct and dominion mixed up, or maybe i didnt explain clear enough, territorial instinct is a knowledge of the creatures place in the world that he belongs to that place,, where as dominion is this place belongs to me.
    For example, a lion in his territory, will hunt prey and defend his territory against other lions and hyenas. But the lion will not hunt other lions or hyenas in the same way they hunt their prey, they may kill them if they come across them, especially if food is short, but in the absence of hyenas or other lions they wont go looking for them to kill. Such behaviour is evolutionary unsustainable. Dawkins calls this the selfish gene. It doesnt pay off to use your time and energy hunting competitors that could possibly hurt you back. This is the difference between territorial instinct and dominion.

  • Comment number 22.

    what is killing America's mammals?

    Ans:- Sarah Palin! (and her corrupt Republican - NRA centric philosophy)!

    What about SUVs? - these let the drivers get places in a degree of comfort and make them immune to the reality of the damage they are doing.

  • Comment number 23.

    Man is simply a virus and will end up kill himself and the world as well.

    Man will kill indiscriminately, mostly for greed, often for survival and the most sickening simply for pleasure.

    I am an Omnivore and I have no problem with people breeding animals for slaughter or killing wild animals for survival in the way that say an Aborigine or Inuit does. The difference is these people never take more than they need unlike the white North Americans that slaughtered millions of buffalo every year until it was extinct a few years later.

    What I object to is people who kill simply because they can and for pleasure or for greed such as killing a Tiger because some rich sick person wants a Tiger skin rug or a Rhino because their horn makes up some totally unproved potion.

    As for the Vegetarians who will probably jump on this HYS article I would like to remind them if it is wasn’t for meat eaters like myself many of the species of animals that they have concern about would not be alive today because people do not keep these animals simply because they look cute they keep them to make a living and providing that they are treated well and given a quality of life then I see nothing wrong with it.

    Ps How do we know plants don’t have feelings?

  • Comment number 24.

    Larger, carniverous animals were more likely to be killed than smaller herbivores... Basically, it's a primal exercise in prowess. "Look at me I killed this big scary carnivore, won't I make a powerful and courageous mate!!". Well, no actually, it's rather pathetic. If someone feels the need to massage their ego in this way then all it reveals are massive insecurities. However potent an animal predator might be, it has next to no chance against a human with a rifle.

  • Comment number 25.

    Shane I couldn't agree with you more.

    We are a part of nature and we play our part but consider that in our "oh so superior" way we are just eradicating us as a species from the planet. Perhaps our role is to change the course of our ecology such that humans, along with many other species, eventally become extinct. I am no scientist but who stipulated that human kind would exist on this planet forever.

    PS. I am just playing Devil's advocate. I do believe mankind needs to change its behaviour towards nature to, if nothing else, at least elongate its time on this planet.

  • Comment number 26.

    Definition: Man - a bipedal primate mammal (Homo sapiens) that is anatomically related to the great apes but distinguished especially by notable development of the brain with a resultant capacity for articulate speech and abstract reasoning.

    I question this definition and submit this blog in support of the re defining to:

    a bipedal primate mammal (Homo sapiens) that is anatomically related to the great apes but distinguished especially by notable its stupidity and it's resultant capacity for destroying itself (... and the planet)!

    I weep for us all...

  • Comment number 27.

    Kevin Morice and Gonzales - I think you might have missed a paragraph. These were not the recorded deaths from animals whose deaths were identified by a human nearby at or soone after death, but all deaths from a pool of tagged animals.

    Possibly, the existence of a tag suggests they were closer to large human population centres at some point/most of the time, with an increased chance of being done away with by a person, but you can't say that this pool is skewed towards deaths which occurred near people.

  • Comment number 28.

    Two points to note:

    In Scotland the government encourages deer to be culled - human hunters struggle to kill enough to allow natural regeneration of woodland. Good rural estates(the majority now) concentrate on killing the old and weak much like a farmer to improve the stock of deer they have. The paying guests effectively ensure these rural estates are financed which helps protect the environment from more intensive land use and protects small local communities.

    American hunters do have a reputation for wanting trophies and I understand in parts of Africa it is because of these trophy hunters that certain areas have remained largely wild and not been taken over by cattle farmers and other more destructive land uses. Communities count up their game each year decide what is surplus and then auction the right to hunt prescribed numbers. The community gets money from the hunters and so help protect thier patch from poachers and others. If they kill all their game then no more money. This is good for wildlife and the environment and is a lot less intrusive than bus loads of tourists snapping away. It also means you need a lot less people to visit to ensure that an area is effectively protected and a community thrives embracing and valuing their natural assets.

  • Comment number 29.

    "Unnatural selection?"
    "Artificially killing"

    Hmmm - Science on the BBC isn't what it used to be hey.... Give me a call if you would like to put the science back into science journalism...

    Dr Big Potato

  • Comment number 30.

    I say let Sarah Palin hunt all she likes - provided we give her precisely the same tools and chances as the animals she's hunting. Leave her with the clothes on her back for modesty and set her loose in black bear country. I doubt she would last a week.

    You have to wonder about a country that believes itself the "greatest on earth" yet legally engages in some of the most socially reprehensible behavior imaginable. Will America ever learn? I doubt it.

  • Comment number 31.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 32.

    @Shane, well done you; ignoring the misanthropists and accepting that conservation and ecology are very very different disciplines - you should write for the BBC - their current standard seems a little embarrassing.

    Dr Big Potato

  • Comment number 33.

    @RonC - plants don't have feelings because they don't have nervous systems - the real question is this: does that give them any less a right to life than creatures with one? I don't know.

    I eat to survive like the predator that evolution made me - but I refuse to kill anything just for the sake of my own feelings...

  • Comment number 34.

    I cannot personally see hunting relatively defenceless animals as sport. Better still - let the hunters hunt each other. Each hunter has an officially specified gun - now that is much fairer and we would all be better off for the resulting cull.

  • Comment number 35.

    TO sean, comment 1.
    I just want to pick up on one thing you mentioned in the first comment which was:

    'WE' are part of nature, and whatever we do IS natural

    so hunting for fur for your gucci coat or poaching for ivory for your novelty chess set is not natural. expanding into and destroying an entire foret because it got a 'nice view' isnt natural. Natural is using your strengths to prevail extinction doing what you can to stay alive and in the end our main strength is our ability to think at a higher level and i refuse to believe this 'gift' prevailed under years of evolution so that we could abuse the entire earth.

    the earth is as that of the lungs of a smoker its demise is inevitable and you only realise the truth when the damage is done

  • Comment number 36.

    For all the emotive stuff on here, it is important to remember just how big the States and Canada, and what huge wild animal population resources they have.
    Having spent time out there, it is impossible to not to be impressed by how heavily regulated hunting is, and how effective is their wild animal management
    Its ironic that there is so much criticism from a nation who eliminated almost all its indigenous animals centuries ago!
    In my experience, the hunters do actually eat what they kill, keep the skins and horns. I have never seen the sort of gratuitous killings as happened in past history with the buffalo.
    On the other hand I remember earning one shilling for every grey squirrel I shot, and six pence per rat and coypu, paid for by the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries!
    Another world perhaps, Essex in the 1960's?

  • Comment number 37.

    I think your idea of what natural selection is, is completely flawed Shane. The whole idea of Natural Selection is that the weak are hunted by the strong and only the strong survive OR the better equipped Herbivores are the ones that will access the nourishment they need in order to survive. At no point is it assumed by Darwin that any animal will go around killing other beasts for fun or "sport". At least not to the degree Humans do today. Humans have evolved to a stage, in the west at least, where we can farm food and contain the impact we have on the rest of the animal world. This doesn't give us the right to (so called) "hunt" animals to the brink of extinction. Animals that cannot defy the laws of science and evolve quickly enough to deal with the threat of a fat redneck with a rifle. However if that did happen I would love to see a Grizzly Bear sat behind the wheel of Range Rover staring down the coward that turned up to shoot him in the back.

  • Comment number 38.

    It is no surprise at these findings.The USA has always been gun mad and controlled by the gun lobby in so much as there is no real control over how guns are sold. They have no idea what so ever over how many and of what type of guns there are in the public domain in the states. Gun control is a laugh. So long as the gun companies sell the guns that is all that matters. Who or what gets killed is of no consequence. And the yanks think we all want to be like them.

  • Comment number 39.

    Wealthy people have always enjoyed hunting. The big game hunters of the 20th and 19th centuries were not working class lads from Salford but the landed gentry who get bored and tire so easily. Can never understand when the fox hunting supporters insist that hunting is done by normal people who own a throroughbred hunting horse, carrier and top of the range 4x4, and are called Rupert.

    The Americans wiped out the buffalo as it was a main supply of food and clothing for the native red indians, who stood in the way of progression.

    How as this thread been turned into a God question??

  • Comment number 40.

    I occasionally stalk deer (hinds) in the Scottish Highlands. This is required as Wolves were hunted to extintion so the Deer, now having no natural predator, breed to damaging numbers (to themselves and their environment). If possible sick and weaker animals are taken and the carcass is sold to a game butcher (except in the case of sick animals). Some people do hunt trophy stags but it's largely a minority interest. I'd be very happy to see Wolves re-introduced back into Scotland. I would say that any meat eater who is against this aspect of hunting is being hypocritical.

  • Comment number 41.

    This is a philosophical point, but if someone believes that everything about nature, including human nature, can be explained by natural selection, then why should anyone care or worry about what effect humans have on non-human species? What is the rational basis for caring?

    I hope this doesn't seem too obtuse!

  • Comment number 42.

    A very predictable finding, I’m afraid. President Obama has recently quietly relaxed hunting bans in many Western States, which flies in the face of all evidence and common sense. The re-introduction and protection of wolves has actually led to environmental improvements. The wolves prey on the (too numerous) elk which eat lots of vegetation, preventing forest regeneration (especially Aspen forest). The natural reduction of elk numbers by wolves is a positive benefit, as is the presence of wolves themselves. As others have pointed out here, nature itself does a perfectly good job - we don't need trigger happy killers blasting away at everything that moves. I don’t know why they feel they have the right to kill wild animals, they don’t belong to them. I would like the right to view and enjoy wild animals. All very depressing.

  • Comment number 43.

    Sorry, i think everyone is missing the point with this article.....
    "Other animals would be a good guess, as would disease, or maybe old age.

    But for the large mammals of North America – the answer is different, and to me, quite shocking.

    This week I’ve just learnt a startling statistic – the biggest killer of large and medium sized mammals across North America is…


    Why are we all reading an article from someone from the BBC to be paid to travel around or sit at home on his laptop whilst being paid by our TV licence fee's, just to come up with the most bleedin obvious fact that no-one (despite their split opinions of ecology and the meaning of life) has mentioned on this post.

  • Comment number 44.

    Excellent article and the first response by Shane is also thought provoking. We are the most aggressive, self interested arrogant species on the planet and perhaps the hunting lobby in America best typifies this fact. Steve McNair....its nonsense to say that hunters eat/use what they hunt. In any event this does not justify the mass slaughter and excess taking place. Arguments referring to the theory of natural selection to explain human behaviour are specious. The fact is human behaviour is having a dire impact on the overall 'health' of this planet and that behaviour can be changed ....education and common purpose and will power can make a difference. I've just come back from a few weeks travelling around India and also know the USA well. For all its faults, poverty, caste system etc....give me India any day. India has a soul...America is full of snake oil salesmen and charlatans!

  • Comment number 45.

    in response to shane...

    agriculture is most definitely not the beginning of man's rapacious attitude to the natural environment. The End pleistocene megafaunal extinctions (i.e. the catastrophic extinction of most mammalian genera above a certain weight threshold) began around 100,000 years ago in Africa (all be it mildly). homo sapiens then concurrently spread with the extinciton event through eurasia and Australasia (commencing around 46,000 years ago) and finally the Americas (vaguely 8.5 to 13,000 years ago).

    The global distribution of Homo sapiens has always been associated with the extinction of other species. Our exploitation of a finite biosphere is NOT because of our abstraction from nature through agricultural revolution (and any subsequent feeling of superiority) but is rather an inherent property of an innovative and technologically advanced species.

    Does it make it anymore palatable? no probably not... i just wanted to point out that we haven't broken any laws of nature or rebelled against the world.

  • Comment number 46.

    @shane I couldn't disagree with you more.

    The gargantuan difference between humans and the other animals on this planet is that we have been given the power of choice.

    We each have a choice, revel in our own animalistic tendencies or try to become more than we are, more than human, because we can.

    So go pick up a gun a shoot something for laugh, or not. Your choice.

  • Comment number 47.

    The most common large game hunted in the US is probably the white tailed deer.
    A 1997 Cornell University study reported that the native population was around 500,000 in the early 1900's. At the time of the study that number had grown to

  • Comment number 48.

    Lets be frank about this, Americans simply enjoy killing things, whether it be Human or Animal, look at Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Vietnam. Wherever theres an excuse to kill, there will be an American. They have no pity or penchant for mercy, if it moves kill it. Very sad.

  • Comment number 49.

    @James... Wow - the power of choice... Is this like the well established "power of choice" that a rat performs in a preference test? And when you suggest that this power of choice has been "given", may I ask from whom it has been given. We are biological organisms, modified through descent using a genetic language that we share with all other organisms at some level. Your power of choice is nothing more than neurotransmitters and hormones...

  • Comment number 50.

    The lack of hunting in this country makes us very much an exception in the world rather than the rule. We are a tiny crowded island with animal populations that simply wouldn't stand widespread hunting. Hunting was also traditionally something done by the wealthy land owners with the ordinary folk specifically excluded from it. Put those together and it largely explains why hunting is not particularly widespread in Britain and why we as a nation have become rather detached from the reality of nature. I’m sure if we did a survey of large mammals in the UK we’d still find that humans were responsible for a huge proportion of deaths, simply because of the close proximity between man and beast. What this doesn’t mean however is that the anti-hunting stance adopted by many in the UK is in any way right or morally superior to any other country; it's just that we come from a different culture that doesn’t understand it, and the fact we don't understand it means that it is us that is out of step with much of the rest of the world and not the other way round.

    By comparison to the UK the USA and many other countries worldwide have huge areas of wilderness and large stocks of animals, so they can stand a certain level of hunting without stocks being unduly affected. Whilst it isn’t the case in all countries, in the USA hunting is pretty tightly controlled and monitored by the authorities who set season dates and catch limits to ensure that the animals aren't over hunted, and much of what is killed is taken for food as well as for the trophy. For that reason I have no problem with people hunting - it's simply a tradition in that country that hasn't died out as it has over here. I can't pretend that I understand the desire to kill something, it's certainly not something I'd ever want to do myself, but I’m not going to condemn it and claim that we are morally superior simply because for practical reasons it's no longer part of our culture.

  • Comment number 51.

    Have to agree with Morice and others who have pointed out the flaws in the sample selection mechanism and the statistical methods used. This study is hopelessly biased, presumably to support a wildlife preservation agenda. I am in favour of such an agenda, but not at the cost of bad science. I see thousands of birds every day, yet many days will pass on average before I spot a dead one on the ground. Am I to assume from this that most birds are immortal?

  • Comment number 52.

    Unnatural selection?

    The human animal is a predator, pure and simple.

    The only 'unusual' thing is that we have avoided the need to grow physically large (with respect to our prey) by inventing machines/weapons to aid our efforts.

  • Comment number 53.

    This research is fundamentally flawed as it looks at all deaths where the cause of death was know. The fact is that by far the majority of natural deaths occur without being witnessed or recorded, whereas nearly all deaths at the hand of man can be recorded. Therefore surely the data is massively skewed to show that man is the main cause of death as a result of the method of sampling. The sample size is also very suspect. This whole issue smacks of having a political bias.

  • Comment number 54.

    @Charlie-Big-Potato no of course not. And neither am I religious.

    Humans have abilities that we waste. Whilst we make excuses everything around us suffers (including other humans).

  • Comment number 55.

    Kill or be killed is how it works in the forest

  • Comment number 56.

    At least Soreshins speaks some sense. Our big problem re the environment is not the hunters - they actually ensure habitat protection as they value their hunting. They on the whole do not want to wipe out their prey and in America as stated before it is very regulated and most people/hunters only get to kill very few animals - they will get to hunt less if their quarry decreases.

    Poachers on the other hand hunt not for fun but for greed and are much more dangerous as the less there is of something the higher its value - like Rhino horn. To be fair many poachers in Africa kill animals to feed themselves and they do not have the luxery of thinking long term. We people are the problem - infact it is the growing cities who demand more food and resources that cause the biggest problems. There are simply too many of us and I suspect expanding farm land (destroying natural habitat)does many times more damage to large mamals than hunters do - who afterall passionately wish to preserve their wilderness. So we all are to blame for any demise in big mamals!

    I should add that I think the article is flawed and possibly pointless as does it make any difference if people or animals kill the big mamals? As long as their populations since US gov took an interest in them are relatively stable it is ok. As infered to above, to reverse their decline means culling us humans.

  • Comment number 57.

    It makes sense to look at the impact humanity has on other species and our environment/resources; If humans are to survive as a species it is essential to try and conserve what we have. However, humans are part of the ecosystem and it is arguably natural to have evolved to use the complex tools and change our surroundings to make our species more likely to survive. This is not an unusual feature in nature. All living things have an effect on the ecosystem and other lifeforms, seeking to expand and to grow. What IS unusual is that we have evolved enough to understand the impact we have and are taking steps to preserve other life that has no direct benefit to us as a species; no other species does this to my knowledge.

  • Comment number 58.

    Shane, I applaud your comments. What the hell gives us the right to go out and kill for fun, is it a god given right? I think not. Are we not supposed to be the "intelligent species" Don't make me laugh. The human species some where along the evolutionary line took a wrong turning. It's a sad day indeed when man has to shoot an Elk or an Elephant for a trophy, then again, why have a gun if your not going to use it. Guns are meant for one thing and one thing only....TO KILL !!! One last thing, WE DO NOT HAVE DOMINION OVER THE ANIMAL KINGDOM.......WAKE UP ALL BEFORE IT'S TO LATE.

  • Comment number 59.

    It is astonishing that Matt Walker is "startled" to discover that people are the main cause of death of animals, when it has been glaringly obvious for years. Of all living things, the human species is the only one prone to self-obsession (look at our celebrity culture and "look-at-me" number plates), disregard for the natural world (look at our obsession with killing things for fun and our unwillingness to curb our waste of energy), avarice (look at executives' pay and bonuses), and above all, stupidity (how often do you see people waiting in their cars with engines running, oblivious to the consequences). Most people couldn't care less about the impact of their way of life on the natural world: the warning signs have been apparent - and increasingly publicised - for years, but self-centred minds don't look outside of themselves. To the few who clearly recognise the damage that the human race does and are courageous and energetic enough to try and do something about it, it must be heartbreaking: I salute them.

  • Comment number 60.

    Evolution is not survival of the strongest or even the best equiped (#37), it is survival of those most capable of adapting to changing conditions.

    Eventually, the species being hunted will either face extinction (as we did with many other species in the past) or the surviving members will be those who weren't hunted for whatever reason (too small, weak, etc) and therefore contribute to that species continued evolution.

    Like it or not, even by hunting in the way we do, we contribute to the evolution of species and to call it wrong on those grounds is flawed. It's wrong for other reasons; the unnecessary killing of animals for trophies.

  • Comment number 61.

    (@stephen 41. Re: The rational basis for caring)

    The reasons why these capabilites might have evolved could include the benefits of cooperation and altruism, or the ability to empathise, perhaps brought about indirectly by the useful innovation of being able to predict the behaviour of other people and animals (by imagining ourselves into their shoes/hooves).

    Of course in day-to-day experience the 'rational basis for caring' is not a concious, cold, logical weighing up of the benefits before each action, but the instinctive good feeling we get from doing things which benefit us and others. Unfortunately the hunter in us also gets a good feeling from tracking and shooting things. I would say that social and environmental factors are playing a part in which of these actions we choose - but even those factors were shaped by our nature as human beings in the first place.

  • Comment number 62.

    What exactly is the point of the article?

  • Comment number 63.

    I want to comment on Kevin Morice's and other contributions attacking the statistics.

    Boblin has already commented on his attack on the design of the study and I agree with his conclusion that "the human involvement/reporting issue has been removed as far a possible". However as like us all I haven't seen more detail than given in the article, I would put a 'probably' before 'removed'. You can nearly always improve the design of a study. Unfortunately this always gives an opportunity for attack for those who want to dispute the conclusions but don't actually have any data to refute them.

    Billy had already pointed out that if all the 'unknown cause' deaths didn't involve man, man is still responsible for 44%. Personally I find that frightening enough.

    What if all these deaths were due to man? The percentage rises to 59% [this is 100*(0.52*1874 + 335)/2209 ]. So the percentage of deaths due to man is somewhere between 44 and 59%. That is even more frightening.

    To give us a "best" single estimate the authors of the article were using the standard statistical assumption that the split amongst the unknowns is the same as amongst the knowns. As 52% sits in the middle of the range 44 to 59%, if you want a single figure, that is probably as good as you will get.

    So why don't we just agree that the percentage of deaths due to man is frightening and unsustainable, and move on to talking about how to improve things.

  • Comment number 64.

    Another BBC comment thread overrun with sophmoric philosophizing, self-righteous back-patting, and the occasional gratuitous anti-American slur.
    I congratulate Derek (#40) and leftofright (#47) for pointing out the elephants in the corner. Top-predators have been driven to near-extinction by loss of habitat and targeted hunting. That has resulted in an explosion of deer (White-tail mostly), to the point that culling is the only alternative to mass-starvation in the wild.
    By all means, bring back the predators, wolves & panthers, but that is a long, hard road. Until then, the hunter has a crucial place. (Never been a hunter, but I am an enthusiastic eater of venison).

  • Comment number 65.

    @ No. 1 Shane

    Spot on- Civilization (by which I mean city-states reliant on the importation of foodstuffs, industrial society, heavy agriculture) has got to go. Rather, civilization is going to go. Those humans who do not realize this have their heads in the sand. The collapse is around the corner and it aint gwyne ta be purty.

    The eradication and decimation of species is only a small part of this collapse.

    Glad to know that there are others out there aware of the insanity of our current society.

  • Comment number 66.

    People are stupid and don't know/don't care how they screw up the planet and its biosphere and the species who live on it. The tragedy is, that the stupid people who are doing this are not the ones who will suffer in the future, it will be their children and grandchildren.

    Just so that any readers of this are no doubt of the problem 'PEOPLE ARE STUPID'

  • Comment number 67.

    In the states all money used to preserve the wildlife comes from hunters and sports fishermen through the sale of licenses, and excise taxes on hunting and fishing gear. Additional money is obtained by sale of water fowl tax stamps which are traditionally bought only by the hunting community. The paradox is that these animals would have long fallen into extinction without this support. Large mammals are carefully husbanded by fish and game commissions supported by by this revenue. The animals are scientifically managed so that only sustainable numbers are harvested. In our country the wildlife are owned by the people not by the property owner.

  • Comment number 68.

    #60. the animal has to survive in the first place to be able to adapt. It does not evolve overnight. So YES the best equipped at the given time are the ones that will survive. And if an animal is hunted for food then fair enough. Hunting for so called "sport" should not come into the equation.

  • Comment number 69.

    Concerning the validity of the statistics raised by Kevin Morice, gandalf the white and others above - I just read the original article in detail in Animal Conservation, and as far as I can see, there's nothing at all wrong with the approach the authors have taken. Data is taken from studies where animals were tagged, and so virtually all deaths will have been recorded (and not just those where a human observer was present). Furthermore, deaths recorded as of "unknown" causes were only those were it could not be determined whether the animal had died of natural or artificial causes.

  • Comment number 70.

    Sadly, or not, the exponential law of progress will shortly make this all a nonsense.
    Progress is not linear; 1% is not 1% of the way there, it is halfway there.

    Within the next 50 years the curve hits the point where anything and everything could be computed and determined within minutes by a computer unaided and undirected by humans.

    After that point what the mechanical intelligence decides to do and whether it will notice the human race any more than we notice an ant hill on a construction site is beyond our puny knowledge.

    So may as well saddle up and get shooting while there's still time to misbehave like that.

  • Comment number 71.

    Brendan #58 wrote:

    Sorry, but as the top predator on the planet we actually do have dominion over the animal kingdom, just as lions have dominion over wildebeest on the plains of Africa or killer whales have dominion over seals in the oceans, we hold the fate of the animal kingdom in our hands, and to suggest otherwise is simply to ignore the facts. Our ability to plan and coordinate and our use of tools made us into what we are and nothing will change that. How we chose to use this dominion is another matter of course.

  • Comment number 72.

    I suppose the better thing is to let the deer starve to death rather than cull them through hunting?

  • Comment number 73.

    Why is it a surprise that Americans shoot/trap/kill more large animals than the rest of nature?

    They have not yet moved out of the "pioneer" state of mind, so everyone has a gun and shooting things is seen as a good/wholesome thing to do (ie Sarah Palin).

    Maybe in 200 years (if they planet lasts that long) they will mature into a more "responsible" state of mind. But I won't be holding my breath.

  • Comment number 74.

    I think actually motor vehicles wreak more havoc on critters than hunters do.And critters sometimes get the last word, as in a deer through the windshield.
    We even have "road-kill" recipe contests. Country folk can recycle, too. :)

  • Comment number 75.

    P.S. Great photo that appears to be a coyote, but perhaps not the best example of a carnivore faced with any great challenges to it's survival. Coyotes are very adaptable, have spread into suburban areas with ease & are skilled at picking off pets & livestock.

  • Comment number 76.

    Should not the first line of the article be "Death beckons all living things" instead of Death becomes all living things?

  • Comment number 77.

    "If you think shooting a deer from 100 yards away with a rifle is natural, you are either being deliberately awkward or you an idiot."

    Aren't there newt- or lizard-like creatuers with long tongues that sit there motionless and then suddenly dart out a tongue and grab some unsuspecting insect? The scale is different, but the mode identical.

    We have just developed rifles instead of long tongues.

  • Comment number 78.

    Racoons and skunks? Roadkill would seem to be the only way humans routinely kill them, yet it's still claimed to be the single biggest identifiable cause of death. Perhaps it says something about us Brits that most of the commenters seem to have fixated on hunting! (And who radiotags skunks anyway? Inquiring minds want to know.)

    As for hunter gatherers being more "natural" than farmers - don't forget that hunter gatherers wiped the mammoths out in record time....

  • Comment number 79.

    there have been comments made about what people want to put on the wall, refering to trophy hunting, which happens all over the world sadly, and with this comment, it is refered that trophy is the only reason americans hunt...this is NOT so. i for one am a hunter, as all of my ancestory has and my point is simple, survival. when i was growing up dad hunted, filling the freezer with elk and deer, as well as plenty of trout. all 'bagged' in season, those animals provided life for our family. now as an adult, my husband and i still continue to hunt (in season) on my father's ranch, where deer are plentiful, in fact too plentiful to sustain healthy herd populations. we also enjoy bird hunting, not so much for getting the birds but for time spent as a family with the dogs in God's country. My Heritage is truly American, as I have ancestory that set foot on this land in the 1700's, then again during the great immigration of the early 1900's, but I am also of this land, as my ancestory includes people of the First Nations of the America's (Cherokee). All of my family has hunted, passing down conservation, sustainability, biology, ecology and environmental knowledge as well. Hunting is not a sport of blood lust, but is a culture in America that encourages time with family and friends, to share knowledge and wisdom and also spreads the word of helping native species survive in their own natural habitate. Sure, there are a lot of folks (me included) that would love to get the 'big one', but it is more important to many hunters to make sure they come back with food to feed themselves and their family for a few months. Road kill is another very important topic, and it is very true that there is a lot, especially in places like Wyoming and Colorado. Traffic cannot be blamed entirely. In these two area's, herd populations are very large and they just seem to keep growing, even though tags for hunting have increased. In large populations such as this, a cul is very much needed to keep all wildlife healthy. Animals who go unchecked actually eat themselves out of a habitat and then there is mass death due to starvation. To blame people entirely is wrong, but there is blame none the less. Poaching due to ignorance is a large problem in the America's and it hurts not only the animals but the avid, law abbiding hunter as well. I know that there is nothing that i can say to anti-hunting advocates to sway their mind, but at the end of the day, i know that i

  • Comment number 80.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 81.

    to finish my post, i know that i have done nothing wrong and have fed my family in a humane law abiding way...and @jj, i agree with you! american hunters don't hunt to be manly~as a hunter you should well know that women hunt just as much as men and the 'machio' aspect has mostly disappeared. i am not going to attempt to change the minds of people, because too many 'anti' hunting advocates are deliberatly ignorant to facts and will continue to choose to be...what i choose to do is to leagally feed my family, and raise them to respect the land and all that dwell upon it, and that thanking the father for allowing the deer, elk, fish, quail or chukar to feed us is more important than the opinions of others...we are not in the wrong, we do not poach, and just because others disagree with our choices is does not make them wrong....and to that point, if these folks could prove beyond a shadow of doubt that hunting only harms, i may stop, but since they cannot, i won't....

  • Comment number 82.

    48. At 15:01pm 28th Apr 2011, DevilsReject wrote:
    Lets be frank about this, Americans simply enjoy killing things, whether it be Human or Animal, look at Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Vietnam. Wherever theres an excuse to kill, there will be an American. They have no pity or penchant for mercy, if it moves kill it. Very sad.

    OH.. for the love of Pete!.. Insert rolling eyes here.

  • Comment number 83.

    #1 Shane, your fellow countrymen are killing those poor creatures with high powered rifles for sport. It is not a natural thing by any means. The USA is the gun crime capital of the world and its major export is war. When are you guys going to give up your violent ways? You are consuming the planet.

  • Comment number 84.

    #50. well said.

    Not sure how many people here have been to the US, but there are many big, open spaces here over run with wildlife. Hunting in the US is very regulated. bow hunting this time of year here.. rifle hunting this time of year there.. ONLY kill these animals now, etc. People do not just run around shooting every and any animal in sight. And although I do not hunt myself, I understand why some do. I know many hunters who kill for food. They may enjoy the hunt, but they use what they kill as well. I know where I live in upstate NYS there is an abundance of wildlife. They creep into our yards and onto our roads into traffic. They cause injury to people, damage to property, kill pets, and consume all they can from the woods they live in. Hunters keep the numbers of these animals low to preserve the land as well as protect people and pets.

  • Comment number 85.

    I was in the U:S in the early 60s, yellowstone park in particular - a truck went round all the time picking up dead animals - surely road kill - the uk everywhere you go - and ive been a lot of places - you see dead animals and birds on the roads - i also know quite a few who have a predeliction for killing wild animals which is allmost Pathological (strange how many seem to be farmers)
    Here in Norway i have seen perhaps 3 dead animals over the areas ive travelled in the last 7 years. Yes there are a lot of shooters, but last week i filmed a herd or red deer of perhaps 40 animals, then came across another of 50 or so just a few miles from my house. i have filmed cranes,otters,mink, eagles,foxes you name it - all not far from where i live in Mid norway.
    Now as allways they want to wipe out badgers in the uk - so glad im here. There seems somehow to be something very twisted about those who enjoy killing for killings sake.

  • Comment number 86.

    Having read all the responses, to date, I worry less about the poor 'animals' than the people that seem to have such a relaxed attitude to English grammar and spelling. I certainly hope they're better in life than in this 'argument'. Those who win are those who communicate clearly...

  • Comment number 87.

    Most large numbers of Wildlife in Europe were killed of by humans long ago.

  • Comment number 88.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 89.

    The death of the natural world is around the corner, people who dislike the statistics in this article are the same people who enjoy hunting for sport. I think it is more important to understand the primitive mindset of people who still feel the need to hunt. Clearly in America and Canada there aren’t massive amounts of starving people (like Africa and Asia), there is running water and electricity to 95% of urban area, and there plenty of social programs to where people who are poor can still eat 3 meals a day. So the need to hunt for survival is not necessary, so why do so many people feel the need that they have to kill animals, the answer is pleasure. You people enjoy killing animals for PLEASURE and even though you’re not killing people, it’s just as bad and I bet if it was legal to kill people you would be the first lined up to do so. The bottom line is there are more guns floating around in America than any other country in the world and with our major decline in education and influx of guns you have a lot of dumb people with guns. You rarely see educated people in America, and I am not talk about people who just go there high school diploma, (the highest level of education stupid people receive in America) killing wild animals for sport/pleasure (same thing). It’s always the dumb ass who can barely read or was bullied as a kid, who enjoys shooting wild animals for pleasure and until we understand how to relate to these morons why this wrong and conveying the message that killing off our countries natural resources is hurting our country and NOT patriotic/ helping America at all. If you care about America you would care about her best interest and there is nowhere in science (which is factual unlike all you crazies that REFUSE to believe it) does it say destroying a country’s natural resources, passed an unrecoverable state, has a positive outcome on a civilization. It actually states that opposite, that the miss management and constant waste of natural resources can DESTROY civilizations (aka destroy America) like it has done it the past. I also find it hilarious that these hunters usually advertize some patriotic message on their personal positions that symbolizes there blind love for this country when they are the actual enemy. There constant ignorance and sense of “I am the center of the universe” mentality is a direct result of the declining education rate and disconnection to the rest of the world in this country and I honestly don’t see it changing any time soon.

    I didn’t forget about all you scumbags who are going to say “well I have to hunt to make money,” that excuse is no longer sustainable because we are at the point to where natural recourses are more valuable to the community then you. You have the same chance as anyone else to change your way of life and try and learn and new skill. For how long are we going to let lumberjacks destroy forest because it’s their way of life, or commercial fishermen to deplete the world’s fish populations, or allowing oil companies to control the world as they see fit by slowing down the rate at which we are switching from oil to new energy sources. It’s always this small group of people who have to ruin it for everyone and I am sick of these people. You pose the biggest threat to this world and everyone including yourself needs to be aware of it.

  • Comment number 90.

    Ego is behind all motivations to survive in this world. Ego is necessary for survival. But our egos have spun out of control, which is evident everywhere today. Hunting for sport is an example of ego that is out of control. Our saving grace is that we are capable of rising above our egos, and this is also starting to become more evident today. Therefore, we will survive for many thousands of years, or longer.

    We don't NEED to hunt for sport. And there are many who do hunt for sport, not only in America, but also in the UK and in many other countries. And it's all down to their inflated egos.

    As we rise above our egos instead of constantly giving in, the killing of animals will reduce, and we will become healthier. Add to that, increased levels of compassion and respect for all living things, including each other. As humans, we are self-correcting, although this tends to take a long time.

    Eckhart Tolle's books are excellent for learning more about ego issues, etc.

  • Comment number 91.

    @Sam, academic intelligence is NOT the same as wisdom. I know many academically educated people who have gone to uni and trained as doctors, teachers, social workers, etc, who have very little wisdom. People in government, people who make decisions for everyone else, they are rarely wise enough to be running the countries they are in charge of. They are power-hungry and they are at the top of the chain. People who carry guns, who commit crime, etc are a part of the problem, but it's government officials and the rules they make up who are causing this. And people who vote these people in are not very wise either. Follow the chain and see where it ends up. It means we are ALL responsible for what is happening in society. Whether that is hunting for sport or killing too many animals for meat when we don't need anywhere near as much meat as we consume, or whether it's for killing each other, criticising each other, abusing the earth and everything on it, etc, each one of us are ultimately responsible for all of that, through the choices we make as individuals. Academic education has nothing to do with it. It's personal and collective wisdom that will change things, and only we can choose to become wiser, through our life lessons. Not in a classroom learning maths or English or whatever.

  • Comment number 92.

    I stopped working in research ecology because I found the scientific method was basically flawed. This debate serves as an example.
    First we scientists "nit-pick" the statistics which are never perfect but, at least in this case, quite sufficient to establish the facts. Next we apply our "objective" logic, but often disagree. So much for objective logic.
    The major flaw is our assumption that "objective" is "right". It simply treats everything as objects, animals aren't. Living things are subjects, theyr'e subjective, they have feelings.
    This brings us to the subject of morality which requires that we respect subjectivity, or the feelings, of others. Fortunately this has become sufficiently developed to make genocide unpopular. Respecting animals feelings is something some of us have learned, others are taking time to understand. Some people are more intelligent than others.
    The absence of a capacity to feel and respect the subjectivity, or feelings, of others has always been a cause of collective suffering yet, in our scientific community we tend to ignore this aspect of our human brain function.
    People lacking this capacity could be described as subjectively underdeveloped. It would appear that their brain function has also become inadequate because they have lost that "subjective intelligence" which guided us through millions of years of evolution.
    Put differently. People who mistreat animals need their heads testing but, of course, no offence is intended.

  • Comment number 93.

    Another characteristic of humans is exaggeration and / or universal statements that are not well thought through - Share writes "For all of time species have vanished, and new ones appear, it is an insanity of the 'dominion meme' that we need to preserve species, and to 'save the panet'." Would that include the time before the solar system and then Earth was formed, before life emerged on Earth?

    The original article states: "So if I was to ask you what is the single largest killer of animals, what would you answer?". The answer is rather obvious given the context of the killing was not part of the question. The massive scale of slaughter of farmed animals that often live in very unnatural circumstances is just as horrific as the slaughter of those in the wild from my perspective. Have you heard a pig scream as it is slaughtered? At any one moment on this planet there must be a vast noise of animals screaming shuddering and dying its a constant background sound we as a race generate. Very refreshing to read Richard Price's perspective - animals do appear to have feelings, as David Attenborough recently pointed out even amongst groups of insects there appears to be some who behave differently to others exhibiting independence. I find the psychology of a hunter who can care for and appear to respect and nurture their dogs, horses etc and who can then slaughter other animals with a smile and a feeling of satisfaction rather difficult to understand. Likewise I can not reconcile the care and love of domesticated animals indulged in by so many humans who then are happy to much away on a daily basis on other animals. I wonder if Wal-Mart now stocking guns will have any impact on the statistics. I am not sure about the objective subjective argument - when the subjective perspective on slaughter involves feelings of joy it is not objective detachment that enables killing. I remember hearing a teenager talking to mates in school he had recently killed his first rabbit after it being snared and was reveling in the shuddering during its death - the capacity to perceive the the feelings of others was there but the subjective perspective lead to joy rather than revulsion. An objective perspective might enable people to step back and view their actions from a non-personal perspective and act for the good of all, including the animals, rather than for the satisfaction of their personal emotions.

  • Comment number 94.

    For me "mistreating animals" includes killing them for fun, putting them in prison (intensive farming) when they're not guilty of anything, genetic selection (or manipulation) to transform, for example, real ducks into big flabby things with legs unable to support their weight and cows with udders that would shame Madame Ferrari.
    Mistreating animals also includes destroying their environment and polluting them.
    We must also learn to respect plants, insects and minerals.
    I believe this is the path to that happiness which our objective logic has failed to provide.

  • Comment number 95.

    Sorry to be pedantic but in the interests of good grammar what is signified by the three full stops? Should it be "people who" and "they are"? There are many levels of use of English; this is a fairly informal discussion no one is being assessed for a certificate in English. Use of English in discussion boards is often more akin to live verbal conversation where ambiguity is rife but addressed in a reflexive way through further comment if clarification is needed, however; I do agree some posts lack clarity including my previous one where I now notice I attributed a comment to Share rather than Shane. On many of the BBC pages and programs there are examples of poor English, I get pretty fed up with hearing "you know" when the speaker has no idea whether I do know, or "we all" when I definitely am not part of the we, or reading , when ; is required; then I find I sometimes make the same errors myself.

  • Comment number 96.

    Shane writes "I also do not think all animals are 'fluffy', but they do not wage war as we do, they fight yes, and compete, but do not exterminate."

    Put a couple of terriers in a rat infested space and see what happens. If they could get at all rats in the world I do not think they would stop and think about the consequences of their actions; they would just keep having fun waging war against all rats. Let foxes into a chicken run and count how many they kill and how many they eat. Check out a cuckoo hatchling in action or many predatory bird chicks who will exterminate all of their siblings. Watch what happens when these little critters find a bee colony https://www.break.com/usercontent/2007/11/30-wasps-kill-30-000-bees-394297 Check out whales, dolphins or sharks exterminating whole shoals of sardines.

  • Comment number 97.

    86 . At 01:08am 29th Apr 2011, Stewart Reid wrote:
    Having read all the responses, to date, I worry less about the poor 'animals' than the people that seem to have such a relaxed attitude to English grammar and spelling. I certainly hope they're better in life than in this 'argument'. Those who win are those who communicate clearly...


    I don't understand...

  • Comment number 98.

    The largest single killer of armadillos is pickup trucks. And it appears to be impacting their "evolutionary paths" in some type of positive way because the population continues to spread.

  • Comment number 99.

    Pretty depressing read -However,posts # 8 ,92 & 94 stood out for me.The British had a pretty poor record on recreational hunting. Many big country houses are full of animals ,stuffed or slain. I guess a few Victorian hunters had the occassional shrunken tribal head over a mantleplace too. Recreational hunting is a way of connecting to our primal past , as an animal linked into the ecosystem.We're not linked into that in the same way in the West,we aren't part of the ecosystem- we lord over it. But It's hard to justify killing another living creature for sport or on a full tummy.If numbers need to be kept down for specific reasons, then those numbers should be decided by folk who understand their local environment-like park rangers, etc who know all the wildlife on their patch. Yes, it's important to know that a pork chop doesn't grow on a supermarket shelf, but we should respect what we eat and the animals we rear on farms should lead a natural life. Our supermarkets are packed full of food.How much is wasted when it's past its sell by date

  • Comment number 100.

    @99: I'm a member of the NRA & a big supporter of hunting & fishing, however I do hear you in that there's an enormous amount of waste going on food-wise.Stores try to donate as much as possible to soup kitchens & homeless shelters but there are still large amounts just thrown away.
    Hunters actually donate meat to food banks & landowners-not just park rangers-understand their local environment,too.
    We have hunting & fishing laws in every state & many types of wildlfe are now much more abundant than 100 years ago, partly due to conservation efforts by hunters.
    I don't understand trophy hunting, either ,but then I think it's a "guy thing" anyway.


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