Chapter

Sounding the Alarm About Continent-Wide Wildlife Extinction

in Nature's Ghosts

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780226038148
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226038155 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226038155.003.0004
Sounding the Alarm About Continent-Wide Wildlife Extinction

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In 1876, Joel Asaph Allen, a curator at Harvard University's Museum of Comparative Zoology, issued a series of publications in which he lamented the decline of North America's wildlife and chronicled numerous native species that had either been lost or greatly diminished in number. He spoke briefly of the forces that threatened those that still managed to hang on and offered concrete proposals that might stem their decline, including that of birds and mammals. While naturalists, sport hunters, and others had previously noted in passing how humans had driven individual species to extinction or near extinction, Allen's publications marked one of the earliest extended discussions of the larger process of human-induced wildlife extinction. Romanticism, nationalism, and the recognition that humans could profoundly change the natural world provided frameworks for eliciting concern about human-caused extinction of wildlife in America. At the same time, the rise of recreational hunting and fishing offered a large, politically vocal constituency that sought to reverse the decline of numerous species, especially those pursued as game.

Keywords: Joel Asaph Allen; Museum of Comparative Zoology; extinction; North America; wildlife; birds; mammals; natural world; recreational hunting; fishing

Chapter.  12530 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Environmental History

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