Illegal Killing of Non-Game Wildlife and Recreational Shooting in Conservation Areas

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Illegal killing of non-game wildlife is a global yet poorly documented problem. 

The prevalence and ecological consequences of illegal killing are often underestimated or completely unknown. USGS scientists and others reviewed the practice of legal recreational shooting and present data gathered from telemetry, surveys, and observations on its association with the illegal killing of wildlife - birds and snakes - within conservation areas in Idaho. In total, 33% of telemetered long-billed curlews and 59% of other bird carcasses with a known cause of death were illegally shot. Analysis of spatial distributions of illegal and legal shooting activities showed that birds were being shot illegally in the course of otherwise legal recreational shooting. Snakes on the other hand appear to be intentionally sought out and targeted in locations where they congregate. Study results highlight a poorly known conservation problem that could have broad implications for some species and populations of wildlife. 

Illegally killed rattlesnakes in Idaho

Illegally killed rattlesnakes in an Idaho conservation area. Photo credit: Kevin Warner, Idaho Army National Guard

Katzner, T.E., Carlisle, J.D., Poessel, S.A., Thomason, E.C., Pauli, B.P., Pilliod, D.S., Belthoff, J.R., Heath, J.A., Parker, K.J., Warner, K.S., Hayes, H., Aberg, M., Ortiz, P.A., Amdor, S., Alsup, S., Coates, S.E., Miller, T.A., Duran, Z.K., 2020, Illegal killing of non-game wildlife and recreational shooting in conservation areas: Conservation Science and Practice, https://doi.org/10.1111/csp2.279 

Curlew banner photo credit: Stephanie Coates, Intermountain Bird Observatory, Boise State University

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Date published: November 6, 2017
Status: Active

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Contacts: Todd E Katzner