The endangered US fish and game list may not directly impact hunters and anglers, but here are some things worth paying attention to.
As a hunter or an angler, it’s often easy to have tunnel vision. We are so set on bringing down a certain type of animal (like a whitetail deer, for instance) or on ensnaring a trophy game fish (perhaps a largemouth bass), that we can occasionally risk making a mistake and killing or injuring an animal that is on the endangered species list.
Since killing an endangered animal is punishable by hefty fines and prison time, it’s best for hunters and anglers to educate themselves about the animals that they may find themselves in contact with. Here are some endangered animal and fish species, localized to North America, that you should have on your radar depending on where you are hunting.
California Condors: In 1982, statistics put California Condor populations at 25. Two decades and a lot of preservation work later, these birds have battled back to numbers closer to 200, but they are still in danger. Hunters are one of the main threats, not necessarily because they shoot the birds out of the sky – though that does happen – but because of the animal corpses that they leave in the woods for condors to scavenge. California has worked to ban all use of lead ammunition, since many condors have died of lead poisoning after ingesting small pieces of lead, but all hunters in California need to be careful to properly dress and dispose of their kills.
Sturgeon: For anglers who accidentally catch an endangered fish, correcting the situation is often easier than it is for hunters who kill an endangered animal. They can merely toss the fish back in the water and continue on with their day. However, not all anglers know every different fish on sight, and since certain species of well-known fish – such as sturgeon – are considered endangered US fish and game when others aren’t, simply tossing an endangered fish back in the water is sometimes easier said than done.
The Pallid Sturgeon (found in Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska, the Dakotas, and numerous other states) and the White Sturgeon (native to Idaho, Montana, and parts of Canada) are the two types of the fish currently featured on the endangered US fish and game list.
Steelhead: Steelhead, or rainbow trout, are one of the most popular game fish in the United States – at least outside of the bass family – but many anglers don’t know that there are actually places where they are endangered. Most of the trouble spots for steelhead are located outside of the United States, particularly in the North Pacific Ocean near Asia. However, the endangerment extends to the southern coast of California, so if you are fishing there, make sure to use extra caution.