Hunting is the practice of seeking, pursuing and capturing or killing wild animals. Hunting wildlife or feral animals is most commonly done by humans for food, recreation, to remove predators that can be dangerous to humans or domestic animals, to remove pests that destroy crops or kill livestock, or for trade. Lawful hunting is distinguished from poaching, which is the illegal killing, trapping or capture of the hunted species. The species that are hunted are referred to as game or prey and are usually mammals and birds. In economic terms, hunting is considered to be part of the primary production alongside forestry, agriculture and fishing.
Bushmen hunter in BotswanaHunting arose in Homo erectus or earlier, on the order of millions of years ago. Hunting is deeply embedded in human culture. Hunting an animal for its meat can also be seen as a more natural way to obtain animal protein since regulated hunting does not cause the same environmental issues as raising domestic animals for meat, especially on factory farms.
Bow hunter in UtahHunting can also be a means of pest control. Hunting advocates state that hunting can be a necessary component of modern wildlife management, for example, to help maintain a population of healthy animals within an environment's ecological carrying capacity when natural checks such as predators are absent or very rare. However, the usefulness of hunting as a control measure has been questioned, and excessive hunting has also heavily contributed to the endangerment, extirpation and extinction of many animals.
Professional deer stalker with red stag in ScotlandThe pursuit, capture and release, or capture for food of fish is called fishing, which is not commonly categorised as a form of hunting. It is also not considered hunting to pursue animals without intent to kill them, as in wildlife photography, birdwatching, or scientific research activities which involve tranquilizing or tagging of animals or birds. The practice of foraging or gathering materials from plants and mushrooms is also considered separate from hunting.