Survey shows wildlife draw is 77 million

ON THE OUTDOORS

July 13, 1997|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

What group has 77 million members and spent $104 billion on its activities last year?

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, that 40-some percent of the U.S. population consists of people 16 and older who participate in recreational activities relating to fish and other wildlife.

In the preliminary findings of the 1996 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, the USFWS says more than 39 million people fished and hunted in 1996. On average, each sportsman spent $1,828 last year on food, lodging, transportation, gear, land leases, licenses, group memberships and user fees.

The survey started by interviewing 80,000 households and selected 28,000 potential fishermen and hunters and 14,000 potential wildlife watchers for detailed interviews about participation and expenditures.

The survey was the ninth conducted for the USFWS by the U.S. Bureau of the Census since 1955 and was funded by excise taxes paid on the purchase of hunting and fishing gear and equipment and motorboat fuels.

Among outdoor activities, fishing continues to be a favorite pastime, with 35 million anglers spending an average of 17.7 days fishing in fresh and/or salt water. Freshwater fishing attracted nearly 30 million anglers who spent nearly 514 million angler-days in the field.

Saltwater fishing drew 9.4 million anglers.

The number of fishermen older than 16 did not change appreciably between the previous survey in 1991 and last year, but the survey found that fishermen spent 22 percent more days in the field in 1996 and spent 38 percent more money (in inflation-adjusted dollars). Expenditures for big-ticket items such as boats or four-wheel drive vehicles were up 124 percent.

Days in the field and expenditures were up for hunters, too, with expenditures up 47 percent and days afield up 8 percent. The purchase of equipment increased 91 percent over the past five years.

Hunters spent an average of $1,492 in 1996.

The survey estimates there are nearly 14 million people older than 16 who spend an average of 18 days per year in the field.

An estimated 11.3 million hunters focused on big game such as deer and elk, and 7 million pursued small game -- rabbits, squirrels, pheasant and quail, for example -- and 3 million hunted migratory game birds and waterfowl. Other animals such as raccoons and woodchuck drew the attention of 1.5 million hunters.

As a group, big-game hunters spent 154 million days in the field, and birders and waterfowlers spent 26 million.

Wildlife watching has been included in the survey since 1980, but in the 1991 and 1996 surveys the data were limited to include only activities in which the primary purpose was to watch wildlife. In earlier surveys, incidental observations were included.

Last year, 63 million people participated in wildlife-watching activities, ranging from backyard birders to out-of-state trips made for such specific activities as whale- or large-mammal watching.

Wildlife photography drew 16 million people, 11 million visited public parks or natural areas to observe wildlife, and 13.4 million maintained plantings or natural areas for the benefit of wildlife.

According to the survey, the number of wildlife watchers in the United States last year was 17 percent fewer than in 1991. Despite the decrease in numbers, expenditures increased more than 25 percent, from $279 annually in 1991 to $430 in 1996. The purchase of equipment accounted for 43 percent of the increase in annual outlay.

Wildlife recreation by the numbers

Comparison of participation, 1991 and 1996 (numbers in thousands):

.......... .......... .......... ..... 1991 ..... 1996 ..... Change

Total sportsmen ..... .......... ..... 39,979 ... 39,694 ... -1%

Anglers, total ...... .......... ..... 35,578 ... 35,246 ... -1%

Freshwater .......... .......... ..... 31,041 ... 29,734 ... -4%

Saltwater ........... .......... ..... 8,885 .... 9,438 .... +6%

Total hunters ....... .......... ..... 14,063 ... 13,975 ... -1%

Big game ............ .......... ..... 10,745 ... 11,269 ... +5%

Small game .......... .......... ..... 7,642 .... 6,934 .... -9%

Birds, waterfowl .... .......... ..... 3,009 .... 3,042 .... +1%

Other animals ....... .......... ..... 1,411 .... 1,472 .... +4%

Total wildlife watchers ........ ..... 76,111 ... 62,868 ... -17%

Comparison of expenditures, 1991-1996 (1996 constant dollars in thousands):

.......... ........... ......... ..... 1991 .......... 1996 ........ Change

Total sportsmen ...... ......... ..... 47,061,943 .... 72,566,590 .. +54%

Fishing, total ....... ......... ..... 27,588,644 .... 38,074,151 .. +38%

Trips .......... ..... ......... ..... 13,624,912 .... 15,513,045 .. +14%

Equipment ...... ..... ......... ..... 10,769,966 .... 19,457,251 .. +81%

Other .......... ..... ......... ..... 3,193,764 ..... 3,103,855 ... -3%

Hunting, total ....... ......... ..... 14,186,900 .... 20,844,782 .. +47%

Trips ................ ......... ..... 3,956,695 ..... 5,221,228 ... +32%

Equipment ............ ......... ..... 5,943,803 ..... 11,333,584 .. +91%

Other ................ ......... ..... 4,286,403 ..... 4,177,576 ... -3%

Total wildlife watching ........ ..... 21,241,584 .... 27,032,561 .. +27%

Trips ............... .......... ..... 8,604,384 ..... 9,433,806 ... +10%

Equipment ........... .......... ..... 10,993,739 .... 15,701,394 .. +43%

Other ............... .......... ..... 1,643,460 ..... 1,887,361 ... +15%

Source: 1996 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Pub Date: 7/13/97

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