Trophy Hunting and Wildlife "Management"


By Dr. Michael W. Fox From Animal Doctor syndicated newspaper column Sept 2023

DEAR DR. FOX, What you think of trophy hunting? I would appreciate your informed opinion.

Dr. A.J.T.J., Dehradun, India.

DEAR Dr. A.J.T., I think trophy hunting is for psychopaths, an ego-driven obsession that is empathy deficient. Killing for pleasure/recreation is the antithesis of subsistence hunters killing to live. The economic justifications of trophy hunting, providing income for local guides and outfitters to kill old animals who are going to die anyway rather than animals in their prime, are rather fatuous. But the bioethics of killing invasive species I feel is on more solid ground.

So-called “canned hunt” operations where trophy hunters pay to kill captive raised wildlife, often under the banner of species preservation, should either be closed down or species biodiversity restored to recreate viable natural habitat where selective culling may be bioethically valid in the process of rewilding.

I am familiar with your outstanding and dedicated work as a wildlife biologist in India where efforts to protect wildlife and iconic species such as the Asian elephant are meeting opposition by other vested interests. This communication from Dr. Jean-Philippe Puyravaud with the Sigur Nature Trust in the Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu, India ( provides some disturbing evidence: notes that there is a major drive to de-list protected areas, remove corridors and culling of Asian elephants (because of mining) with climate change, plant invasion and an exponential growth of tourism.

I reported in an earlier Animal Doctor column that this year the Indian government banned environmental education and climate change discussion in schools.

Most government agencies here in the U.S. as in Minnesota where I live, have Departments of Natural Resources that do not put primary focus on habitat and wildlife protection and biodiversity restoration with control of invasive species along with initiatives to address the consequences of climate change to minimize the severity of droughts and forest fires with provision of feed and water for vulnerable wildlife populations. Instead, priority is given to the hunting, trapping, fishing and timber, cattle ranching, agriculture and mining industries, and recreational tourism with the construction and maintenance of roads, trails, camp sites and lodges. Restoration of wildlife habitats is an essential element of reducing the negative impacts of climate change.

So, India is just further down the same road as the putting human interests before those of other indigenous species as well as the indigenous native peoples. The ultimate fragmentation of wildlife habitat, increased human encroachment and population expansion compounded by livestock and agricultural intrusion, well documented in other countries such as Africa, are aggravating climate change and the emergence of pandemic diseases old and new.

It is ironic that Minnesota’s large White tailed deer population managed by the state for hunters who lobby for the virtual extermination of “competing” wolves is now a concerning potential source of new variants of the COVID-19 disease. Veterinarian Andrew Bowman and colleagues at Ohio State University have found that wild deer have become reservoirs for SARS-CoV-2 and “the evidence is growing that humans can get it from deer, which isn’t radically surprising,” Dr. Bowman said. Researchers also found that the virus mutates faster in deer than in humans, variants that were no longer common in people were found in deer, and hunters should wear protective masks and gloves.

I should add that humans can transmit SARS-CoV-2 to domestic cats, which can then become infected and transmit the virus to other cats through direct contact or contact with feces or contaminated surfaces, according to a study in Microbiology Spectrum. Infected cats shed virus and can infect others for roughly eight hours, and while cases of animal-to-human transmission are exceedingly rare, study co-author Wim van der Poel says people should be cautious around cats exposed to the virus. This is a major reason to keep all cats indoors. Full Story: Earth (531)