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Be grateful for all wildlife resources
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Americans can be grateful for the stewardship of their ancestors who took steps to protect wildlife for future generations to enjoy.
Ben West, wildlife specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said unlike many countries, wildlife is prevalent and considered public property in the United States. However, access to ample wildlife is by design, not luck.
"We don't have these wildlife populations just by luck; we have these numbers because of good stewardship," West said. "America has the most advanced wildlife management system in the world."
West said the country was founded by common people who had not lived where wildlife was accessible. For example, only wealthy landowners in Europe could hunt, and commoners caught removing an animal from the population could receive severe punishment.
"Our founders initially believed this country had limitless wildlife resources, but that was not true. Market hunting was common in the 1800s, and some animals, such as passenger pigeons, were hunted into extinction or close to it," West said.
Around the turn of the 20th century, Americans began to realize the importance of conserving wildlife resources. Early efforts established state game commissions and harvest regulations, effectively putting an end to unregulated market hunting.
President Theodore Roosevelt, an avid hunter and outdoorsman, created the National Wildlife Refuge System in 1904. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also was created to help stem the dramatic decline of the nation's fish and wildlife resources. All of these actions have reflected Americans' growing concern for conservation and environmental issues for more than 125 years.
Larry Castle, chief of wildlife for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, said the department monitors harvests each year and makes recommendations for future seasons.
"Bag limits help remind hunters that wildlife is a limited resource, but limits also have been changed to achieve different wildlife management goals," Castle said. "Some of the limits are just there to give people an opportunity to hunt without being excessive, especially in the small game arena. We want to encourage the wise use of the resource."
Castle said season dates largely are set by tradition, not weather.
"Our objective is for season length to provide the maximum hunting opportunity without negatively impacting the wildlife resource," he said.
The agency continues to make recommendations and enforce the rules and restrictions to ensure an abundance of wildlife for future generations.