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Wildlife as Recreation - National Survey Of Fishing, Hunting, And Wildlife-associated Recreation

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Americans have a rich tradition of enjoying nature. In fact, several of the country's most popular recreational activities involve wildlife and wild places. As part of its effort to conserve species and natural habitats, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service publishes a periodic report on how Americans use these natural resources. The data come from interviews conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census. The most recent report is the 2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, published in October 2002. In this survey, the Fish and Wildlife Service found that over 80 million Americans over the age of 16—39 percent of the population—participated in some form of wildlife-related activity in 2001. They spent a total of $108 billion on those activities—about 1.1 percent of the nation's Gross Domestic Product. (See Figure 11.1.)

During 2001, 34 million people in the United States fished, 13 million hunted, and over 66 million enjoyed some form of wildlife-watching recreation, including photography and feeding or observing animals. Many participants in one of these wildlife-related activities engaged in the others as well. The prevalence of wildlife-watching from 1980–2001 is shown in Figure 11.2.

Wildlife watching attracted over 66 million Americans in 2001, 31 percent of the total population. (See Figure 11.3.) These included residential participants who took a special interest in wildlife near their homes (62.9 million) as well as nonresidential participants who went on a trip the primary purpose of which was wildlife-watching (21.8 million).

Expenditures for wildlife-related recreation, 2001

Figure 11.4 shows the percent of total residential participants by wildlife-watching activity. The largest number participated by feeding wild birds or observing wildlife. As shown in Figure 11.5, a large majority of residential wildlife observers were interested in birds—96 percent. However, other animal groups, such as mammals, insects and spiders, reptiles and amphibians, and fish, also drew wildlife-watchers. People from non-metropolitan areas, or small metropolitan areas, were most likely to engage in residential wildlife watching. (See Figure 11.6.) Figure 11.7 shows the age breakdown of residential wildlife-watchers.

Wildlife-watching: Number of people who observed, fed, or photographed wildlife, 1980–2001

Nonresidential participants who observed, fed, or photographed wildlife showed particular interest in birds and land mammals. However, fish and marine mammals (including whales) were also well-represented. (See Figure 11.8 and Table 11.1.) Approximately 83 percent of all non-residential wildlife observers observed wildlife in their state of residence. About 30 percent traveled to other states to engage in wildlife-watching activity. Figure 11.9 shows the types of sites visited by nonresidential wildlife observers. Woodlands were the most popular, followed by lake or streamsides, open fields, brush-covered areas, and wetlands.

Table 11.2 focuses on the activities of birdwatchers. There were almost 46 million birdwatchers in 2001. Of these, over 40 million observed birds around the home, and over 18 million traveled to birdwatch.

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