Unnatural Selection: Part Two

This is part two of a series of blog posts, click here to see the first post.

Trophy hunting

Most instances of trophy hunting found today are of individuals in camouflage with high calibre rifles lurking in the bushes, bravely waiting to shoot an animal from a safe distance. It’s somewhat analogues to taking a sledgehammer to a hedgehog, being neither an indicator of bravery or intelligence and in most cases appears to be the sad hobby of a quivering adult male suffering from a severe type of Napoleon complex. However! These people exist and perhaps regulation is better than prohibition, something that throughout recent human history has consistently shown itself to never work… This blog post is on the unnatural (or human) selection pressures of trophy hunting, particularly on one animal.

The (not so big now) Bighorn Sheep

USGS_ovis_canadensis_GNP_bighorn_rams_0.jpg

This example one of the clearest for showing the human selection pressures on animals that fall victim to trophy hunting.

The key issue with this form of hunting (besides its depressing nature) is that human predators usually select for the largest, most impressive animal. Natural predators however usually attack the weakest animals as they are the easiest to kill. So where in nature, the biggest or fastest animals more often tend to survive, the human world ‘encourages’ the survival of the weaker and smaller.

The trophy hunting of the Bighorn sheep has seen this exact issue occur. Human hunters would seek out the largest horned animals and this meant then the smaller horned sheep were more likely to survive. This selective pressure then means the smaller horned sheep became more prevalent, as they survived and passed on their genes.

So what can be done? Well the Canadian government set a law that stated only Bighorn sheep with horns over a certain size could be killed. This limits how small the horns will get, however more and more of these animals have horns smaller than the legal hunting limit  as any sheep larger than this is killed. This is a very powerful selective pressure. This limit then, is not a long term fix. Unless when all these sheep have smaller horns they declare nobody can hunt them, in which case that could have perhaps been done from the beginning?

Regulated Hunting?

In an ideal world we wouldn’t have people so bereft of dignity or compassion that cases like this would occur, but this is not an ideal world. Banning the hunting of this animal will reduce hunting I am sure, but we cannot protect every animal with big horns, big claws or big teeth across the world (see where the Napoleon complex comes in?). Though perhaps regulation could allow these individuals to quench their strange desires for rhino heads or whatever it may be and profit from them, then invest the money into conservation efforts, improving ecosystems and breeding more of these animals? Allow for the hunting of only the older animals, ones no longer breeding, so to not drive the animal to extinction or influence them with the ever-increasing unnatural selective pressures of humans.

Tank the Bighorn Sheep

If you are hunting for food, with a permit, hunting the weakest (or even the average) of a species and a well-populated species that can afford to be hunted, I can’t really see an issue as such….but, don’t go out wanting to hunt ‘Tank’ (what they call the sheep they want to hunt in this video as it’s so big) so you can reach your ‘200 inch mark'(see 3:57 of the video). I feel like I am going mad. I mean these sheep have these horns primarily for sexual dominance, they are used by sheep for social dominance and therefore the ability to mate (so yes in nature size is important). So what is going on? Men hunting animals that are the biggest and most sexually dominant, is there something lacking in these people? I mean track these animals sure, see them in all their magnificence, but their value comes in them being alive and passing on their genes, seeing the wonders of evolution. Well at least until someone comes and shoots it in the head. Hunting these animals is at the expense of all future generations to see these beautiful animals.