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Game Over? New England Hunters Confront Climate Change

PHOTO: Big game species, including the deer and moose prized by Massachusetts hunters, are being threatened by climate change, according to a National Wildlife Federation report. Courtesy USFWS-Northeast region.
PHOTO: Big game species, including the deer and moose prized by Massachusetts hunters, are being threatened by climate change, according to a National Wildlife Federation report. Courtesy USFWS-Northeast region.
November 18, 2013

BOSTON - Hunters in Massachusetts and New England are warned in a new report that the warming winters brought on by climate change may someday take away the quarry they pursue. A report from the National Wildlife Federation says the big game that sportsmen and federal and state governments worked to preserve in the 20th century is threatened in the new millennium by climate change.

According to the report's lead author, Dr. Doug Inkley, a senior scientist at the NWF, the concern is starting to spread.

"The hunters - in particular when they're a little bit little grey in the beard or long in the tooth - they were hunting when it was so cold. Now, they're swatting mosquitos on their hunting gear," he said. "They're the ones who get it, and they're talking to their other hunters."

As veteran hunter and wildlife biologist Eric Orff put it, some hunters have to be "hit over the head with a moose" to be convinced of the threat to their game.

"People were by and large deniers, but I am finding that more and more of the hunters - as we lose our moose - are more willing to be engaged in talk about climate change," Orff said.

White-tailed deer proliferate across New England, but Doug Inkley says that could change with the potential effect of warming temperatures on diseases that affect them.

"You know, it would be surprising for people to think that there might be any risk to white-tailed deer, given that they are so common and are even overpopulated in many areas," he said. "White-tailed deer may seem common, but they are not immune from climate change."

Inkley said the report, titled "Nowhere to Run - Big Game Wildlife in a Warming World" is a call to action.

"And if we want to have a bright future of hunting and wildlife conservation for our children's future, we need to address it now," he declared.

The report says cutting carbon pollution, advancing renewable energy solutions, and "climate-smart conservation" that explicitly takes climate change into account in wildlife and natural resource management, should be embraced.

That report is at NWF.org.




Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - MA