Thursday, 11 December 2008

What is "Game?"

I have some time before House M.D. starts, and I'm using it to pre-write a blog post. A pre-written post? Slacker!

Last Friday, as part of our department's regular seminar series, we had in a wonderful speaker, who's name has unfortunately slipped my mind. We talked after the seminar, as I wanted to discuss some follow up points, and the obligatory question of what I researched came up. Among my peers, I mostly explain that my lab studies game species, especially the genetics, but other issues like land use, and demographic history. She says its a shame that I don't study carnivores (she does), and this leaves me momentarily stumped. Well, actually, my lab does - we have a running wolf project through one of our grad students. But aren't they game?

In retrospect, the confusion was obvious. No, carnivores aren't typically thought of as game species. Alaska's one of the few places left where non-ungulates mammals are considered an important cultural, nutritional and economic resource. Lower 48 Brown Bears are in-part threatened (where they've not be outright expatriated) and the Black Bear harvest isn't typically significant. Fur-bearers are the obvious exception to this, but even then, the selection of fur-bearers outside is often reduced over those available north of WY.

I can't help but speculate this is a contributing factor in the many perceptions of wildlife resources. While for some, these species might form an important dietary and cultural resource, people not engaging in those activities may either not perceive the possibility of these activities, or fail to appreciate the importance of them. It also raises to mind how people in urban situations frequently fail to appreciate the sources of subsistence foodstuffs - people tend to assume there's much more red meat than there often is, as they place more importance on large ugulates over fish, waterfowl, regular fowl, marine mammals and plants. Going back to the wolves, it likely never emerged on the speaker's radar that wolves could be considered game, because it just never happens in California.

It's something to consider. And it'll definitely give me pause to be more clear when I discuss `game` issues. It'll do me no good to talk at cross definitions.
Wood Cutting from Round-About Rambles

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