COVID-19 could accelerate the decline in recreational hunting: a natural experiment from Northern Italy

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Jacopo Cerri , Carmela Musto, Marco Ferretti, Mauro Delogu, Sandro Bertolino, Adriano Martinoli, Francesco Bisi, Damiano Preatoni, Clara Tattoni, Marco Apollonio


Although many studies highlighted the potential of COVID-19 to reshape existing models of wildlife management, empirical research on this topic has been scarce, particularly in Europe. We investigated the potential of COVID-19 pandemic to accelerate the ongoing decline in an aging population of recreational hunters in Italy. Namely, we modeled spatiotemporal trends between 2011 and 2021 in the number of recreational hunters in 50 Italian provinces with a varying incidence of COVID-19, and temporally delayed waves of infection. Compared to projections from 2011-2019 data, we detected a lower number of hunters who enrolled for the hunting season, both in 2020 (14 provinces) and in 2021 (15 provinces). The provinces with the highest incidence of COVID-19 in the Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna regions were also those experiencing the most marked decrease in hunting participation. Our findings revealed that a wildlife management system based on recreational hunting can be rapidly destabilized by epidemics and their associated public health measures, particularly when the average age of hunters is high, like in Italy. Considered the high incidence attained by COVID-19 in many European countries, where hunters are pivotal for the management of large ungulates and where they were already declining before the pandemic, our findings call for further large-scale research about the impact of COVID-19 on hunting participation.



Agricultural and Resource Economics, Environmental Studies, Sociology


SARS-CoV2, Italy, recreational hunting, wildlife management, INLA


Published: 2024-04-17 05:57

Last Updated: 2024-04-19 09:34

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CC-By Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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Conflict of interest statement:
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Data and Code Availability Statement:
The reproducible dataset and software code are available at