Available data contradicts claims that animals disperse under pressure from recreational hunters

Evidence backs hunters on animal dispersal


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Hunters do not interfere with pest eradication programs by scaring away feral animals, according to a number of studies, while other findings back up the role of hunters in successful pest control.

ABC TV this week broadcast a program that claimed hunters in NSW national parks would disrupt the efforts of professional trappers, repeating a claim that has often been made against recreational hunting.

The Invasive Species Council has been one of the proponents of the theory that hunters make target animals spread out and move to other areas, and the ABC’s Lateline program aired the views of a professional trapper who backed it up.

However, research by Glenn Saunders as long ago as 1988 found that even after intense harassment by helicopter-borne shooters, there was “no statistically significant difference in the number of pigs in the study areas” where the research was carried out.

Another study by JC Milroy found pig dogging did not disperse pigs, either.

On the other hand, hunters with dogs were “highly successful” at eliminating the majority of feral pigs that did not succumb to a trapping program in a Hawaiian study.

Research on the subject is sparse, and the comments by the ISC’s Andrew Cox and trapper ‘Boots’ on the Lateline report appear to be based on anecdotal evidence that is difficult to back up.

Boots said hunters’ scent and activities would disperse wild dogs and make them more wary, and would have the same effect on deer.

Predators such as dogs can be highly adaptable and able to learn avoidance but there is no indication that hunters would have any greater effect on their behaviour than bushwalkers or other people in national parks.

Dogs are becoming increasingly bold around human habitation, and farmers have been complaining loudly about attacks in the eastern states, some very close to houses, indicating wild canines can become frighteningly comfortable with human activity.

Most hunters know deer are creatures of habit and can reliably be found in the same place time after time, even soon after an animal has been taken there.

New Zealand’s Department of Conservation concluded there were “possible conservation benefits from recreational hunting” and recommended greater communication between it and hunters to maximise them.

“Without recreational hunting, deer densities in some places would be considerably higher, with presumably greater impacts on conservation values,” it reported.


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Mick Matheson

Mick grew up with guns and journalism, and has included both in his career. A life-long hunter, he has long-distant military experience and holds licence categories A, B and H. In the glory days of print media, he edited six national magazines in total, and has written about, photographed and filmed firearms and hunting for more than 15 years.

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