Wildlife-Based Recreation On The Rise

Survey shows 90 million Americans engaged in hunting, fishing, wildlife watching in 2011

Scott Crabdree found a curious Bobcat near Forest Lakes and was rewarded with a great shot.

Scott Crabdree found a curious Bobcat near Forest Lakes and was rewarded with a great shot.


Wildlife-related recreation spending increased between 2006 and 2011, according to a survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), good news for tourist-dependent Rim Country.

The report showed an even larger increase in the number of people engaging in wildlife-related recreation. That includes about 72 million who took trips to watch birds and other wildlife, 33 million anglers and 14 million hunters.

National report highlights

• More than 90 million U.S. residents 16 years old and older participated in some form of wildlife-related recreation in 2011; that is up 3 percent from five years earlier. Most of the increase involved hunting and fishing.

• Wildlife recreationists spent $144.7 billion in 2011, about 1 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. That included $49.5 billion on trip-related activities, $70.4 billion on equipment, and $24.8 billion on items such as licenses and land leasing and ownership.

• The number of sportspersons rose from 33.9 million in 2006 to 37.4 million in 2011. The data show that 33.1 million people fished, 13.7 million hunted, and 71.8 million participated in at least one type of wildlife-watching activity such as observing, feeding and photographing wildlife.

Fishing and hunting highlights

• Of the 13.7 million hunters in 2011, 11.6 million hunted big game, 4.5 million hunted small game, 2.6 million hunted migratory birds and 2.2 million other animals.

• Of the 33.1 million anglers, 27.5 million fished freshwaters and 8.9 million fished saltwater.

• Some 94 percent of the adult U.S. population lived in cities with more than 50,000 residents and they accounted for 89 percent of all anglers and 80 percent of all hunters.

• Men accounted for 73 percent of all anglers and 89 percent of all hunters.

Wildlife watching highlights

• 71.8 million U.S. residents observed, fed, and/or photographed birds and other wildlife in 2011. Almost 68.6 million people wildlife watched around their homes, and 22.5 million people took trips of at least one mile from home to primarily wildlife watch.

• Of the 46.7 million people who observed wild birds, 88 percent did so around their homes and 38 percent on trips a mile or more from home.

• Other types of wildlife also were popular for trip takers: 13.7 million people enjoyed watching land mammals such as bear, squirrel and buffalo. Four million people watched marine mammals such as whales and dolphins; 6.4 million enjoyed watching fish; and 10.1 million enjoyed watching other wildlife such as butterflies.

• People spent $54.9 billion on their wildlife-watching trips, equipment and other items in 2011. This amounted to $981 on average per spender for the year.

At the request of state fish and wildlife agencies, USFWS has been sponsoring the national survey every five years since 1955. It is viewed as one of the nation’s most important wildlife-related recreation databases and the definitive source of information concerning participation and purchases associated with hunting, fishing and other forms of wildlife-related recreation nationwide.

The U.S. Census Bureau selected over 48,600 households across the country to obtain samples of sportspersons and wildlife watchers for detailed interviews. Information was collected through computer-assisted telephone and in-person interviews.


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