North American Model of Wildlife Conservation

Author: The Wildlife Society


The North American Model has been praised for its success, but there’s still room for improvement, as seen in issues like the overpopulation of deer and geese. Experts suggest looking at wildlife conservation successes in other parts of the world to tackle these problems, like Scandinavia.

By learning from the Scandinavian approach to wildlife management, North America may find ways to improve its conservation efforts.

North American and Scandinavian Model

The Scandinavian and North American Models of Wildlife Conservation have similarities and differences due to cultural, political, and historical backgrounds. In Scandinavia, landowners have exclusive hunting rights on their property, which helps prevent overharvesting. This system also encourages sustainable wildlife management by allowing landowners to charge hunters for access and the harvested meat.

Scandinavian Model of Wildlife Conservation

The Scandinavian Model of Wildlife Conservation has eight guiding principles:

  1. Living wildlife is a public resource, and nobody owns it. However, landowners own wildlife that is legally harvested on their property.
  2. Game meat can be sold on the open market, making it an essential part of the culture.
  3. Landowners have exclusive rights to hunt on their land and can lease access to other hunters.
  4. Decision-making is decentralized, empowering local stakeholders to manage wildlife populations.
  5. Wildlife should only be killed for legitimate reasons, such as recreation, harvesting meat, self-defense, or defense of property.
  6. Wildlife is considered an international resource, and Scandinavian countries participate in global conservation agreements.
  7. Science should be the foundation for wildlife management decisions, relying on research and monitoring for effective strategies.
  8. Hunting is open to all citizens, with hunters in Norway and Sweden making up about 5% of the population, representing a diverse group rather than an elite class.

What makes the Scandinavian Model distinct

Open Access Culture

In Scandinavian rural communities, land ownership often dates back generations, and the government subsidizes these communities to maintain cultural continuity. As a result, the hunting culture remains strong. Even though most land in Norway and Sweden is privately owned, it is usually open to the public for activities like hiking, camping, and berry picking. Healthy lifestyles and enjoying nature are essential aspects of Scandinavian culture.

State-managed land is available for hunting, with residents given priority for using communal areas. Access to large private estates may be limited, but small landowners often collaborate to meet hunting requirements. Hunters need landowner permission to hunt on private or public land, usually through leases or permits.

Local hunters typically have good access to hunting through personal connections or hunting clubs. Small game hunting is more widely available, and hunting clubs lease small game rights from landowners, using profits for hunter education and wildlife caretaking.

Game commercial market

In the Scandinavian Model, game meat like moose, deer, and wild boar has significant commercial value. Hunters pay landowners based on the animal’s characteristics and then can sell the meat at a profit.

This benefits both parties and encourages healthy wildlife populations. Hunters also pay tag fees and permit costs, which are deducted from the total price they pay for the meat. This system motivates hunters to meet their quotas and maintain their investments.

In 2007, the total value of wildlife meat harvested in Norway was around $90 million, with moose meat accounting for $54 million. Although fur also has commercial value, commercial trapping is limited, with many trappers focusing on wildlife management as their primary motivation.

Conservation Funding

Scandinavia has no special tax on firearms and ammunition like the Pittman-Robertson Act in the U.S. However, hunting licenses and permit fees fund wildlife management and research.

In Norway, these funds have been dedicated to wildlife management and research since 1951, contributing about $580 million annually to the economy. Similarly, hunter license fees and membership dues for the Swedish Association for Hunters and Wildlife Management help fund management and research in Sweden. These contributions show hunters play a significant role in Scandinavia’s conservation system.

Hunting Ethics

In Norway and Sweden, laws and policies focus on high hunter competence and ethical standards, similar to North America. For example, hunters must have dogs to track wounded games and pass annual shooting tests to hunt big games legally.

This results in low wounding loss rates of less than 1%. Fair chase is balanced with ethical considerations, like efficient and clean kills. Hunters use dogs, two-way radios, and communication devices to increase efficiency, and in Sweden, they can access remote areas using helicopters.

However, off-road vehicles for recreational hunting are prohibited. In addition, trophy hunting is less critical in Scandinavia, possibly due to the egalitarian and collectivist nature of the culture, which discourages bragging or standing out from the group.

Public Perceptions of Hunting

Hunting in Norway and Sweden is viewed positively by most people, due to high competence and ethical standards, as well as the cultural value of game meat.

In 2008, 74% of Norwegians saw hunting as an acceptable and desirable activity. In Sweden, the public strongly supports hunting for recreation and meat, but not as much for recreation and sport. Public attitudes toward guns differ from the US, as Norway has strict gun control laws but high gun ownership, with 32% of households owning guns.

Hunters without criminal backgrounds can easily obtain gun permits, as hunting is considered a legitimate and important activity. In Sweden, just 15% of households have guns, possibly due to different cultural factors.


In conclusion, the model’s success lies in its strong partnership between states, landowners, and the public, creating incentives for local wildlife conservation and management.

In areas like the northeastern US, where private land dominates and game populations are dense, adopting a similar model could benefit wildlife conservation by encouraging private landowners to collaborate with hunters in managing wildlife on their property.