Hunters and birders should work together

They have many shared interests, including conservation

The author is a hunter and conservation chair of the Altacal Audubon Society.

In light of the well-publicized poaching of a rare duck in Oroville (see “Murder most fowl,” Cover story, March 2), it’s worth examining whether birders and hunters can coexist. Let’s start with the obvious: Birders watch birds; hunters shoot birds. Second, let’s throw away some stereotypes: Most birders are not bespectacled Jane Hathaways in khaki shorts and ranger hats. And most hunters are not bearded barbarians who chant “if it flies, it dies.”

What is less obvious is how much the two have in common. Both share a love of being outdoors, like to search (hunt) for things (in fact, birders refer to rare birds they seek as “target birds”), are involved in habitat conservation programs that set aside large areas of land for birds and hate poachers.

Some of the most influential members of the birding community are also avid hunters, like Glenn Olson, conservation chair for the National Audubon Society.

In light of their shared interests, the lack of collaboration between birders and hunters is a lost opportunity for the environment. Issues such as protecting the Arctic from oil exploration, which will despoil the prime nesting grounds of the waterfowl that both groups love, would benefit from the concerted efforts of the groups. Locally, issues including development, wetlands and waterways can affect both hunters and birders, and an alliance between these groups could help to assure a positive outcome for wildlands.

What’s holding them back is that both are suspicious of the other: Hunters are afraid that birders will take away their right to hunt, and birders are afraid that hunters will kill the objects of their affection. If hunters follow the regulations, which have been established to maintain or grow waterfowl populations, there is no fear that duck and goose numbers will be diminished because of hunting. If birders acknowledge hunters as allies in conservation, they will be less inclined to interfere with their pursuit.

In the foreseeable future, protection of natural areas where birds live and breed may well be questioned or removed. Now is the time for both hunters and birders to accept their differences and work together.