Wildlife Management Jargon
The American Heritage Dictionary defines “euphemism” as “A mild, indirect, or vague term for one that is considered harsh, blunt, or offensive.” State and federal wildlife management agencies and officials, as well as hunting and trapping interests, often use euphemisms to describe how they shoot, trap, and otherwise kill animals. Here are some of their most common euphemisms, along with other terms that describe hunting and trapping practices:
- Anti-hunting: A term frequently used to label and marginalize critics of the status quo in wildlife management, regardless of their actual views on hunting.
- Bag limit: The limit, set by state and federal wildlife management agencies, of how many individual animals of a certain species a single hunter or trapper can kill.
- Baiting: The deliberate and intensive feeding of wild animals to lure them as easy targets for trophy hunters waiting in a nearby blind. Bait is typically composed of unhealthy, fatty, sugary foods, including those that are toxic to many wild animals like chocolate and caffeine (Theobromines) and xylitol. Baiting wildlife is problematic for myriad reasons. For example, concentrating wildlife can result in the spread of diseases like rabies or mange and it can make small animals prey to larger animals (e.g., bear cubs preyed upon by larger bears). Furthermore, biologists have noted rapid cellular aging, teeth damage, and more when wildlife eat these unhealthy human foods.
- Calling contest: A euphemism for a wildlife killing contest in which participants use manual or electronic devices that emit a sound mimicking young animals or prey in distress—sometimes amplified by a loudspeaker—to “call” coyotes, foxes, and other species into range for an easy shot. The dead animals are then judged by weight, amount, or other criteria for cash and prizes. Wildlife killing contests target species who have few or no protections (such as bag limits) under the law and serve no legitimate wildlife management purpose. The animals are often dumped after the contest is over; they are typically not consumed for their meat, and their fur is often rendered useless by the high-powered guns used during the contests.
- Challenge/Derby/Tournament: Like “calling contest,” these terms are often used to refer to wildlife killing contests, organized events in which participants compete for prizes—typically cash or guns—for killing the most, the largest or even the smallest animals within a certain time period.
- Conservation: The American Heritage Dictionary defines conservation as “The protection, preservation, management, or restoration of wildlife and of natural resources such as forests, soil, and water.” However, this term has been co-opted (or “greenwashed”) by many clubs and organizations whose primary interest is to promote sport hunting, even calling themselves “conservation clubs.” It is also widely used to refer to the management of a select few game species by state wildlife management agencies for maximum sustained yield, to be killed by paying hunters and trappers.
- Consumptive users: Those who use wildlife in a way that typically involves killing.
- Control: A euphemism for kill, most often in the context of lethally resolving conflicts with wildlife, or the killing of wildlife by paying hunters and trappers.
- Cull: A euphemism for kill, used most often in the context of reducing animal numbers with the purported objective of preventing or reducing conflicts with humans or their property, livestock animals, or other wildlife species.
- Depredation: A term used by state and federal wildlife management and agriculture officials to refer to a native carnivore, like a wolf, bear, coyote, mountain lion, or other species, preying on animals owned by people (e.g. farm animals or pets). Actual, confirmed incidents of this kind are extremely rare and can most often be prevented using non-lethal deterrents.
- Wildlife for All instead advises the use of the term “predation” to describe these incidents. The Words Matter section of the Advocate Wolf Planning Guide, developed by a coalition of wildlife advocacy organizations, explains why:
- “Depredation” is generally defined as “an act of attacking or plundering, pillaging and marauding; robbery; ravage. Man’s inhumanity to man.” “Predation” is generally defined as “the preying of one animal on others; a biological interaction where one organism, the predator, kills and eats another organism, its prey; the killing by one living organism of another for food; a flow of energy between two organisms, predator and prey.”
- The term “depredation” thus connotes the violence and suffering humans inflict upon each other and implies cruelty and malice. In contrast, the term “predation” refers to a biological phenomenon by which one animal kills another animal for food. Wolves are predators, not depredators. Labeling their acts of killing for food as a depredation is inaccurate and introduces a moral judgment that what wolves do is wrong.
- Find out more at the site Wolf Conservation Planning: A Guide for working together using science, inclusivity, and ethical practices, at wolfplanning.org.
- Dispatch: A euphemism for kill, often used by trappers to describe the stomping, bludgeoning, choking, drowning, or shooting of trapped animals to avoid damaging the pelt.
- Dog training: A euphemism often used for the training of packs of dogs, often outfitted with radio collars, to chase and corner or tree bears, mountain lions, bobcats, wolves, coyotes, and other species for trophy hunters to shoot at close range. Hounds disturb all wildlife when they are in the environment, often maul or kill wildlife (including non-target species), and chase wildlife like mountain lions and bears who are not endurance runners. Both hounds and wildlife can overheat during the chase, leading to brain damage or, in the case of bears, the loss of embryos.
- Game species: A designation by state wildlife management agencies for species that may be recreationally hunted or trapped.
- Harvest: A euphemism for kill, used by state wildlife management agencies, hunters, and trappers.
- Hound hunting or hounding: This method of trophy hunting involves hunters and guides using packs of radio-collared hounds to pursue targeted trophy animals until the exhausted, frightened animals seek refuge in a tree—where they are shot—or turn to fight the hounds. Hound hunting results in injuries or death to targeted trophy animals, their young, and the hounds.
- Hunting: The pursuit and killing of wild animals. There are many types of hunting, so many as to make the single term too vague to be meaningful. Types of hunting include:
- Subsistence hunting: see definition below.
- Trophy hunting: see definition below.
- Wildlife killing contests: see definition of “calling contest” above.
- Predator hunting: killing of carnivores such as wolves, bears and mountain lions. Although the meat and pelt is sometimes utilized, that is not usually the goal.
- Ethical hunting: subsistence hunting done in a manner that: 1) respects the pursued animal and affords it a reasonable chance to detect the hunter and escape; 2) does not use baits, dogs, or technology that gives the hunter an unfair advantage; 3) confirms with certainty the species, gender and age of pursued animals before attempting to kill them; 4) and strives to kill the animal as quickly and humanely as possible.
- Fishing: hunting for fish. “Catch and release” is a form of fishing that does not seek to kill the fish but can cause stress and injury that occasionally leads to the death of fish.
- Trapping: see definition below.
- Lethal removal/Removal: A euphemism for kill, most often referring to the killing of wildlife perceived to be in conflict—or even potential conflict—with people or livestock animals.
- Manage: A term used by state wildlife management agencies for exerting control over, or artificially manipulating population numbers of, a wildlife species, most often by the use of recreational hunting and trapping.
- Method of take: The specific weapons, devices, and ammunition that can be legally used to kill wildlife.
- Non-consumptive users: This term encompasses wildlife watchers, hikers, campers, and other outdoor recreationalists whose activities do not kill wildlife.
- Quota: The limit on how many individuals of a certain species may be killed in a specific area. Some state wildlife management agencies also commonly refer to this as a “harvest recommendation” or “harvest limit.”
- Predator control: Efforts to kill carnivores, usually justified (and without supporting science) as needed to keep their numbers from growing excessively, reduce their impact on ungulate populations, or prevent attacks on livestock.
- Resource: A term used by state and federal wildlife management agencies to refer to wild animals, plants, and lands that are killed or extracted for human use. Referring to wildlife as a “resource” implies that wild animals exist only to be exploited for human benefit, and ignores that wild animals have their own intrinsic value, separate from any value humans might find in them.
- Subsistence hunting: Hunting for food.
- Take: A euphemism for kill, most often used by state wildlife management agencies and hunting and trapping interests.
- Trapping: This method of trophy hunting involves setting body-gripping or body-crushing traps or wire snares that hold trophy animals until the hunter returns to shoot, bludgeon, stomp or drown them—methods that are preferred to avoid damaging the pelt and reducing its value. Targeted trophy animals, as well as family pets and other wildlife, languish in these devices for hours and even days, sometimes suffering painful injuries, dehydration, starvation, and exposure before they die or are killed.
- Trophy hunting: A hunt in which the primary motivation is to obtain animal parts (e.g., heads, hides, claws, and even whole stuffed bodies) for display and for bragging rights, but not for subsistence. Trophy hunters often pose with the dead animal for pictures on social media, traditional media, or message boards.
- Wise use: A term created by resource extraction, timber, mining, and ranching interests in response to the environmental movement, which promotes the use of resources for the benefit of humans.
Johns, David and DellaSala, Dominick A., “Caring, Killing, Euphemism and George Orwell: How Language Choice Undercuts Our Mission” (2017). Political Science Faculty Publications and Presentations. 61.
Molde, Don. “George Orwell Still Lives in Unexpected Places” (2021). Sierra Nevada Ally.