Americans Spend More than $75 Billion Annually Watching Wildlife
- April 25, 2018
- By Todd Whitesel
More than 1/3rd of U.S. residents 16 years or older participated in wild watching during 2016, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's 2016 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.
These participants spent over $75.8 billion total in 2016, for an average of $1,193 per spender. In all, some 75% of wildlife watchers spent money on their hobby during the year. The number of wildlife watchers from 2011 to 2016 increased 20 percent, while their expenditures rose 29%.
The survey noted, “Around-the-home photographing was the participation category, and special equipment (including travel or tent trailers, boats, and cabins) was the expenditure category that increased the most.”
More than $64 billion was spent on equipment and other expenses related to wildlife watching. Bird food was the top expense, with over $4 billion spent on commercially prepared and packaged wild bird food and other bulk foods formulated to feed wild birds. Bird watching also had the highest participation rate among watchers, with some 45.1 million people actively bird watching around the home or on trips.
Expenditures on cameras and related gear totaled more than $3.5 billion, with roughly $73 million spent in addition on film and photo processing. Wildlife watchers shelled out more than $1.8 billion on binoculars and spotting scopes.
This group spent more than $674 million on day packs, carrying cases and special clothing; some $364 million on tents and tarps, over $225 million on frame packs and backpacking equipment and another $245 million on auxiliary equipment including blinds and GPS devices.
Watchers also spent some $4.2 billion on land leases and ownership, another $3.8 billion on membership dues and contributions and more than $1.5 billion on boats and boat accessories.
Trip-related expenditures accounted for about 15% of all wildlife-watching expenditures. In 2016, participants spent:
- $11.6 billion on trips
- $6.1 billion on food and lodging
- $4.2 billion on transportation
- $1.3 billion on other trip costs, such as guide and land use fees and equipment rental
The survey found wildlife watching was also popular with the majority of anglers and hunters surveyed. Some 56% of anglers and 55% of hunters said they engaged in wildlife-watching activities. Conversely, 25% of wildlife watchers were active in either hunting or fishing during 2016.
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