What is Nongame Wildlife?

A GREAT variety of wildlife and wild plants … and the forests, grasslands and wetlands they inhabit … represent a natural heritage of enormous interest and priceless value.

Herons, bitterns and frogs are conspicuous occupants of marshes–a rapidly vanishing habitat. Our many rivers and streams harbor creatures such as the rare Northern Redbelly Snake, the wintering Bald Eagle, and the House Wren. Our forests would not be forests without the sights and sounds of the woodpeckers and owls, and the stately figure of a bur oak or ponderosa pine. Grasslands are brought alive by the presence of the melodious Meadowlark and the Prairie Falcon diving with a ground squirrel in its sights.

The urban environment, with its cardinals, robins and Purple Martins, constitutes an important
element of man’s well being because of its closeness to the everyday life of the city dweller.

At one end of the wildlife spectrum are the game species and furbearers, such as the Ring-necked Pheasant, deer, Beaver and trout that people hunt, fish or trap. At the other end are the endangered or threatened species of wildlife and plants, whose continued existence is in some degree of jeopardy.

Such species include the Whooping Crane, Black-nosed Shiner, Swift Fox, River Otter and the blowout penstemon, a plant with beautiful, fragrant blossoms that finds it necessary to grow under inhospitable conditions.

Most wildlife are not hunted and are collectively referred to as “nongame” species. Hundreds of species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians fit this classification, including hawks and owls, bats, herons, sandpipers, songbirds, turtles and frogs. Some of these species are endangered, being on the brink of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of their range.

Others are threatened or likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future. Species as the Jack Rabbit, Spotted Skunk and Short Horned Lizard are protected and classified as in need of conservation.

What is the value of nongame wildlife?

For the game and furbearer species, that value is real and tangible food, furs and recreation. But the value of nongame wildlife is less tangible difficult to express in words and impossible to show on a bank statement Nongame wildlife certainly has worth in terms of aesthetics as well as recreation.

Bird watchers and wildlife photographers might even be able to calculate the number of hours of recreation they derive from wildlife and assign some sort of value to those hours. The rest of us simply see, hear and appreciate wild things in our parks, our fields and our backyards. No one can calculate the value of wild creatures, but we know that our world would be virtually intolerable without them.

There are, of course, more practical values of wildlife. Wild species serve as a barometer of our environment. The decline of the Peregrine Falcon, for example, called attention to the ominous buildup of DDT in our environment, as well as other persistent pesticides; chemicals which can threaten all life.

Scientists study wildlife to learn how the environment works and how it supports all creatures, including man. In the complex web of life, what happens to one species affects us all.