There is so much research on wild animals these days there is always a good possibility that a hunter will run into one that has a collar on it. Wolves, bears, deer and many others are collared so biologists can track their movements and get a good feel for their range and other aspects of their domains. It’s not illegal to shoot a collared animal in the states I hunt, but is it acceptable? Should hunters take an animal out of the research program and potentially negate the information this animal provides?
The term “ethics” is always bandied about when we discuss the topic of shooting a collared animal. It might be legal to shoot that animal, but is it ethical? Let’s consider a couple of scenarios.
A bear hunter has been tending a few bait piles for a few weeks and one has been getting hit hard. The trail cameras he has set up on the bait are showing a big healthy bear coming in at legal shooting hours, but it is wearing a collar. This might be the only bear the hunter gets the opportunity to shoot.
A deer hunter has been sitting in the woods for two days and the only thing keeping him awake is the sound of squirrels sneaking acorns out of the brush under his stand. Suddenly a nice buck presents itself, and he’s wearing a collar.
I can tell you with no reservations that if I was the hunter in those two scenarios I would center the crosshairs on that animal and pull the trigger.
Now I might consider letting a collared animal walk by if I had other potential targets showing up on the trail cameras or if I had seen other animals in the vicinity that could provide a shot, but if it looked like I was only going to get that one opportunity, I would take it. I wouldn’t feel the least big guilty or unethical.
There is a good argument that the hunter is part of the food chain and a predator of these animals. When a hunter harvests a collared animal it should be part of the research and not considered a travesty. Obviously there are collared animals being killed by predators, and consider how many are likely killed by vehicles.
But every year there are collared animals that get shot that have been monitored on web sites or featured in publications. Then the general public gets into an uproar and starts demanding laws that will put a stop to shooting collared animals. Hunters are shooting their “pets.”
When I see this type of media hype over wild animals I almost get the urge to scout out these “famous” animals and shoot them just to work the animal followers into a frenzy, but I’m a nice guy and figure we hunters don’t need the wrath of the masses breathing down our necks.
So if you spot a collared animal when you’re hunting, pull the trigger guilt-free. Consider it research as those who collared that animal should.