Waterfowl hunters have, and continue to, play an important role in the conservation of waterfowl species. They provide financial support for conservation programs and habitat acquisition, protection, restoration and enhancement; they also assist in the monitoring of waterfowl populations and play important roles in population management (Heffelfinger, Giest & Wishart, 2013). Although national surveys have documented recreation use, activity categories have not been consistent to allow for the identification of participation trends. Some provincial-level studies suggest a decline in hunting participation. One reason for changes in hunting participation is changes in social structures that support hunting traditions due to increased urbanization (Watson & Boxall, 2005). In response to this decline of the number of waterfowl hunters, and in an effort to broaden the base of waterfowl and wetland conservation supporters, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) introduced the following goal:
“Growing the numbers of waterfowl hunters, other conservationists, and citizens who enjoy and actively support waterfowl and wetlands conservation”(North American Waterfowl Management Plan, 2012, p. 2).
In an effort to address this goal, waterfowl hunters and birdwatchers were engaged in a continental survey to examine their motivations for participation, and their preferences for waterfowl and wetlands management objectives. Knowing more about waterfowl hunters’ and birdwatchers’ attitudes, behaviours, priorities, and characteristics will aid in understanding Canadians’ participation in nature-based activities and conservation priorities more generally. Furthermore, this research will inform waterfowl hunting and wetland management policies.
This study is part of a larger North American initiative to examine people’s interactions with waterfowl and wetlands in order to understand the dynamics of these interactions, and how the motivations for these interactions appear to have shifted from consumption to appreciation. This research investigated the characteristics that influence waterfowl hunting participation in Canada, and permit a broader examination of waterfowl conservation in a North American context. This effort represents the first continental effort to actively engage the broad range of stakeholders in the process of developing objectives for waterfowl and wetlands management. Six objectives framed the development of this study:
- Assess what waterfowl hunters and other waterfowl conservationists (i.e., bird watchers/birders) most desire from their natural resource-based management and social settings to inform NAWMP objectives and select habitat and population management alternatives.
- Establish baseline measures that can be repeated to inform the development of a Public Engagement Strategy and monitor trends in achieving the NAWMP goal of “growing numbers of waterfowl hunters, other conservationists, and citizens who enjoy and actively support waterfowl and wetlands conservation.”
- Assess waterfowl hunters’ and conservationists’ knowledge, preferences, levels of use and support for waterfowl and wetlands conservation.
- Assess the general publics’ participation in waterfowl‐associated recreation and how much they support waterfowl and wetlands conservation.
- Assess the general publics’ awareness and their perceptions regarding the importance of the benefits and values (i.e., Ecological Goods and Services — EGS) provided by waterfowl and wetlands conservation.
- Assess waterfowl professionals’ perspectives on the levels of waterfowl populations and habitats needed to support hunter and viewer use opportunities.
The expected outcomes of these studies are:
- Quantified measures of stakeholder preferences;
- A greater likelihood of developing NAWMP objectives and management actions that are informed by waterfowl and wetland stakeholders; and
- A focus on harvest management actions that will provide the greatest benefits in terms of stakeholder preferences within the context of what is biologically feasible.
The key research was completed by a collaborative research team at the University of Alberta, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Fort Collins Science Center, and the Minnesota Cooperative Research Unit located at the University of Minnesota.
The results of the waterfowl hunter and birdwatcher surveys are available here:
- National Waterfowl Hunter Report
- Pacific Flyway Waterfowl Hunter Report
- Central Flyway Waterfowl Hunter Report
- Mississippi Flyway Waterfowl Hunter Report
- Atlantic Flyway Waterfowl Hunter Report