WEST LAFAYETTE — From funding habitat acquisition and restoration to keeping an excess of deer off the roads, where they may cause fatal accidents, regulated hunting plays a critical role in wildlife management.
Purdue University’s Department of Forestry and Natural Resources is teaming with Conservation Leaders for Tomorrow and the Max McGraw Foundation on a new online course that delves into the cultural, biological, economic and policy aspects of hunting.
Overall, the course, called Hunting for Conservation, provides a detailed look at the unique North American (U.S. and Canada) system of public lands and wildlife resources, their management as a public trust resource and hunting’s place in a system that sustains wildlife diversity.
Purdue wildlife majors take Hunting for Conservation as part of their major’s requirements. But the partners are making the new online version available to colleges and universities around the country. Even before an on-campus version of the course was offered, Purdue sent top wildlife students to Conservation Leaders for Tomorrow workshops covering the material, and Purdue faculty members often served as instructors at those sessions.
The new online version was in the works before COVID-19, with the goal of making the material more widely available than possible with in-person classes and workshops.
“The pandemic thrust us into pushing ahead,” said Zachary Lowe, national coordinator for Conservation Leaders for Tomorrow. “The partnership with Purdue was a natural fit. There’s no way we could have done this without Purdue’s expertise in distance learning.”
Conservation Leaders for Tomorrow worked with Purdue Online, which offers corporate and organizational partners expertise in both the educational and technological aspects of developing custom training content, as well as content hosting and e-commerce services.
Beyond wildlife students, the course is useful for students in natural resources, conservation, forestry, biology, agriculture – almost anyone interested in hunting, the outdoors, or land management, said Lowe, who also is an adjunct assistant professor in Purdue’s Forestry and Natural Resources Department.
“It makes people who are going out to manage our natural resources aware of hunters and how they interact with those resources,” said Andrew DeWoody, a Purdue forestry and natural resources and biology professor who’s taught the course in person and will teach some of modules in the online version. “If it were up to me, any student who was going to manage natural resources would take this.”
The course highlights core functions of wildlife management, among them keeping the number of animals in balance with their habitat and maintaining sustainable populations not only for today but the future as well.
Hunting is one tool in that effort and not simply because hunters assist with population control. For example, fees from hunting (as well as fishing) permits provide a substantial amount of funding for agencies such as the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and for wildlife conservation activities, including habitat restoration and programs to restore threatened species.
In addition to wildlife management, legal policy development and the role hunting plays in society, the course covers a range of hunting-related topics, from how firearms work and hunting safety principles; to hunting basics such as what makes a good shot and field dressing game; to hunting ethics like never allowing edible meat to go to waste, leaving the land where a hunt took place in good condition and understanding how hunters and hunting organizations interact in natural resources management.