U.S. Department of Agriculture: Forest Service -- National Agroforestry Center


Document Type


Date of this Version



Flather, Curtis H.; Knowles, Michael S.; Brady, Stephen J. 2009. Population and harvest trends of big game and small game species: A technical document supporting the USDA Forest Service Interim Update of the 2000 RPA Assessment. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-219. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 34 p.


U.S. government work.


This technical document supports the Forest Service’s requirement to assess the status of renewable natural resources as mandated by the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974 (RPA). It updates past reports on national and regional trends in population and harvest estimates for species classified as big game and small game. The trends reported here were derived from State Wildlife Agency biologists and supplemented with data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey for those bird species that are commonly sought by upland game hunters. Big game populations and harvests have generally increased over the 1975-2000 period. Small game populations and harvests, particularly those associated with grassland and agricultural systems, show strong patterns of decline. However, population and harvest trends for both groups need to be interpreted with caution because: (1) not all state agencies reported both population and harvest statistics for all species that are commonly sought by recreational hunters, and (2) there were cases of inconsistent reporting at the species level within RPA reporting regions that necessitated aggregating across species. The trends documented here are consistent with trends documented in past RPA reports completed in 1989 and 1999, although those data were also qualified by the same interpretational caveats that apply to the current report. Trends observed generally among big game species were encouraging, but the continual decline in small game populations and harvest remains an important wildlife resource management issue. Until population and harvest monitoring is improved among institutions that share the stewardship responsibility for recreationally important wildlife, national and regional trends will have to be interpreted carefully.