Does Hunting make Animals Smaller?
When hunting is severe enough to outstrip other threats to survival, the unsought, middling individuals make out better than the alpha animals, and the species changes. "Survival of the fittest" is still the rule, but the "fit" begin to look unlike what you might expect. And looks aren't the only things changing: behavior adapts too, from how hunted animals act to how they reproduce. There's nothing wrong with a species getting molded over time by new kinds of risk. But some experts believe problems arise when these changes make no evolutionary sense. . . .
With hunters valuing larger animals, there is money to be made in providing it to them. As Frank Miniter wrote me recently:
Trophy hunting is now making the opposite true. Deer breeding for big antlers (stud deer with huge racks are worth millions) and for African game on the big ranches is big business. But little has been written about it. There just isn't a market for that kind of writing. Hunters shoot "spikes" and older deer with small antlers as "cull deer." The practice is common on any land big enough to be managed. On public lands nearly every buck gets killed, so it's hardly a selection process.