CONCORD — A new report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows that 101.6 million Americans — 40 percent of the U.S. population 16 years old and older — participated in wildlife-related activities such as hunting, fishing and wildlife watching in 2016.
The survey illustrates gains in wildlife watching — particularly around the home — and fishing, with moderate declines in the number of hunters nationally. The findings reflect a continued interest in engaging in the outdoors. These activities are drivers behind an economic powerhouse, where participants spent $156 billion — the most in the last 25 years, adjusted for inflation.
The survey, which has been conducted nearly every five years since 1955, shows that the most substantial increases in participation involve wildlife watching — observing and photographing wildlife. The report indicates that these activities surged 20 percent from 2011 to 2016, from 71.8 million to 86 million participants during that time. Expenditures by wildlife watchers also rose sharply — 28 percent — between 2011 and 2016, from $59.1 billion to $75.9 billion. Around-the-home wildlife watching increased 18 percent, from 68.6 million in 2011 to 81.1 million participants in 2016. More modest gains were made for away-from-home wildlife watchers: a 5 percent increase from 2011 to 2016, from 22.5 million to 23 million participants.
More Americans also went fishing. The report indicates an 8 percent increase in angling participation since 2011, from 33.1 million anglers to 35.8 million in 2016. Total expenditures by anglers nationwide rose 2 percent from 2011 to 2016, from $45 billion to $46.1 billion.
Hunting participation dropped by about 2 million participants, but still remained strong at 11.5 million hunters. Total expenditures by hunters declined 29 percent from 2011 to 2016, from $36.3 billion to $25.6 billion. However, expenditures for related items such as taxidermy and camping equipment experienced a 27 percent uptick, and hunting trip-related expenses increased 15 percent.
This year’s survey also gathered two new categories of data: archery and target shooting. Findings show that there are more than 32 million target shooters using firearms and 12.4 million people engaged in archery, not including hunting.
“Hunters and anglers form the foundation of wildlife conservation in the United States, consistently generating more funding for habitat and wildlife management than any other source,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Greg Sheehan. “Industry, federal, and state fish and wildlife agency initiatives that focus on hunter and angler recruitment, retention, and reactivation are crucial to sustaining these conservation dollars and ensuring the next generation of wildlife enthusiasts have the opportunity, access and awareness to pursue these time-honored American traditions.”
As a partnership effort with states and national conservation organizations, the survey has become one of the most important sources of information on fish and wildlife recreation in the United States. Federal, state, and private organizations use this detailed information to manage wildlife, market products, and look for trends. Conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the survey is based on a 22,416-household sample surveyed through computer-assisted telephone and in-person interviews.
A related report providing state-specific data on New Hampshire will be completed in the coming months.
For more information about the survey and to view the preliminary report, please visit https://wsfrprograms.fws.gov/Subpages/NationalSurvey/National_Survey.htm.