MILWAUKEE — — More Americans hunted, fished and watched wildlife in 2011 than five years earlier, according to final statistics released last month by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"This is good news for our lifestyles and our economy," said Dan Ashe, director of the service.
The results are from the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, an outdoor participation survey the agency has conducted since 1955. The survey results are released every five years.
Ashe called the survey the "nation's definitive database and information source concerning participation and purchases associated with hunting, fishing and other forms of wildlife-associated recreation."
Preliminary 2011 numbers were released in August and were the first in a decade to show an increase in hunters and anglers.
According to the final report, more than 90 million U.S. residents age 16 and older participated in some form of wildlife-related recreation in 2011, a 3 percent increase from 2006.
The increase primarily was among those who fished (up 11 percent from 2006) and hunted (up 9 percent).
Wildlife recreationists spent $144.7 billion on their activities in 2011, equal to 1 percent of the gross domestic product.
Of the total amount spent, $49.5 billion was trip-related, $70.4 billion was spent on equipment and $24.8 billion was spent on other items, such as licenses and land leasing and ownership.
The number of sportspersons rose from 33.9 million in 2006 to 37.4 million in 2011.
The data show that 33.1 million people fished, 13.7 million hunted and 71.8 million participated in at least one type of wildlife-watching activity, such as observing, feeding and photographing wildlife.
The wildlife-watching category represented about a 1 percent increase from 2006.
The number is high not only because it includes the widest array of interests and user groups, but also because the activity can take place at home.
Of the 71.8 million wildlife watchers, 68.6 took part in the activity around the home, while 22.5 million also made trips away from home.
The largest subgroup of wildlife watchers was the 46.7 million bird watchers. Among birders, 41.3 million pursued the activity solely around the home, while 17.8 million also made trips to watch birds away from home.
Of the 13.7 million hunters who took to the field in 2011, 11.6 million hunted big game, 4.5 million hunted small game, 2.6 million hunted migratory birds and 2.2 million other animals.
Big-game hunters spent an average of $1,457 per person on hunting-related expenses in 2011.
Of the 33.1 million anglers who fished, 27.5 million fished in freshwater and 8.9 million fished in saltwater. Anglers spent an average of $1,262 per person on fishing-related expenses in 2011.
The survey found 73 percent (24.2 million) of anglers were male and 27 percent (8.9 million) were female. Among hunters, 89 percent (12.2 million) were male and 11 percent (1.5 million) were female.
There was a considerable overlap in activities among anglers, hunters and wildlife watchers. In 2011, 69 percent of hunters also fished, and 28 percent of anglers hunted. In addition, 51 percent of anglers and 57 percent of hunters wildlife watched, while 29 percent of all wildlife watchers reported hunting and/or fishing during the year.
Other types of wildlife also were popular for trip-takers: 13.7 million people enjoyed watching land mammals, such as bears and buffalo; 4 million people watched marine mammals, such as whales and dolphins; 6.4 million enjoyed watching fish; and 10.1 million enjoyed watching other wildlife.
Americans spent $54.9 billion on wildlife-watching trips, equipment and other items in 2011, an average of $981 per person.
The survey is paid with money from the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program.
Ashe said the Fish and Wildlife Service is dedicated to connecting people and families with nature.
"We are proud to celebrate the good news in this report, and we look forward to continuing progress as we work with the states and all our partners and the public to help keep recreational fishing, hunting, and wildlife watching growing and going strong," Ashe said.
The survey results will be broken out in specific reports for states in 2013.