Many of you probably remember the show Family Feud, where different families were pitted against each other in a battle to see which family was smarter, or at least better guessers.
The questions were based on a 100 person survey that was taken before each show would air and the family guessing the most popular survey responses was declared the winner.
I can still remember show host, Richard Dawson, also known as the “Kissing Bandit” because of his penchant for kissing female family members on the lips, hollering out “Survey says!” before the survey response was shown on television.
Man I hated that show.
To me surveys have always been boring.
And how can those conducting surveys suggest they are accurate to within a small percentage point, usually 9 out of 10 times?
Sifting through a bunch of nonsensical questions asked to unsuspecting respondents, who may or may not be giving accurate answers for many different reasons, also leaves me with much scorn.
Questions can also be worded in many different ways resulting in answers that can be quite the opposite of a respondent’s actual opinion of the question being asked.
But surveys are a part of life, just watch an election race.
|What the heck! A turkey vulture?
Recently though, I had the chance to read through a survey that was conducted by Leger Marketing right here in Alberta. The survey was commissioned by our own Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) in May of this year with the objective to: Assess Awareness of active conservation organizations that operate in Alberta; Measure perceptions of the performance of the conservation organizations that operate in Alberta; Measure support for, and participation in, various outdoor activities; Determine perceptions of the biggest issues facing conservation in Alberta; and, Gauge potential to increase public participation in certain outdoor activities.
Okay, I know, I know. Now you’re bored.
But don’t bail on me just yet. You still don’t know why there is a turkey vulture in the photo on this page and this survey actually brings to attention something we should all be concerned with.
Let’s dig a bit into this survey.
There were 1200 telephone interviews conducted in four geographic regions of Alberta—300 interviews in both Edmonton and Calgary and 300 in both northern and southern rural Alberta—between May 7th and May 14th, 2008.
First off, we’ll leave out the first two objectives and just say that the biggest majority of the 1200 respondents were aware of, and gave, Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) the highest performance level. It should be noted that, unaided, respondents were more aware of Greenpeace than our own Alberta Fish and Game Association (AFGA)—and that hurts, but isn’t surprising considering the headlines Greenpeace constantly garner in newspapers.
Concerning the perceptions of the biggest issues facing wildlife conservation in Alberta our respondents were given four choices. Respondents considered “loss of native wildlife” to be first on the issues list with “wildlife diseases”, “over hunting” and a “lack of wildlife research” following in that order.
Concerning the perceptions of the biggest issues facing fish conservation in Alberta our respondents considered “pollution of lakes and rivers” to be first with “reduced stream flows due to over allocation of water”, “over fishing” and a “lack of fisheries research” in that order.
The only thing here that might be considered surprising is that “over hunting and fishing” were more of a concern than “lack of wildlife and fisheries research”. Doesn’t the research determine how much hunting and fishing takes place? And if so, wouldn’t you then have to consider the research to be more of a concern than over hunting and fishing, especially if the latter is determined by the former?
Okay, more boring stuff that you probably already knew anyway. Stick with me though, we’re getting to the interesting part of the survey and you still don’t know about the turkey vulture.
Here is the part of the survey that got my attention: Measure support for, and participation in, various outdoor activities.
We all know how hard organizations like the AFGA, the Alberta Hunter Education Instructor’s Association (AHEIA) and the Hunting For Tomorrow Foundation (HFTF) work to encourage participation in our outdoor pursuits. In fact, without their efforts I worry that hunting, fishing and trapping may eventually become pursuits of the past, especially if the support of the general public isn’t available.
And this is where the survey sets me back.
I have always believed that the vast majority of those who don’t hunt, fish or trap had some former connection to these pursuits, usually through an older family member like a father or grandfather, and because of this supported these activities. But the survey paints a much different picture.
Where hunting is concerned only 18% of respondents “strongly” supported big game and game bird hunting, while an average of 30% showed moderate support. Combined, less than 50% of respondents thought hunting was acceptable.
Catch-and-keep fishing also showed poor support with only a 23% “strong” support. Granted the numbers went up considerably to 52% when the question changed to catch-and-release fishing. Add in the “moderate” support and catch-and-release fishing hit 82% while catch-and-keep managed 66%.
Trapping showed the smallest support but was remarkably close to hunting with 13% “strong” support and 28% “moderate” support for an overall support level of 41%, just a few percentage points under hunting.
While the “Conclusions and Observations” portion of the survey appears to be quite weak, overall the survey shows that we still have a long ways to go in educating the general public to the importance of our outdoor pursuits, especially where hunting and trapping are concerned.
What about the turkey vulture you ask?
Well, that particular photo is of a wing-tagged bird (H26) captured on my Treebark trail camera west of Baptiste Lake in the northern part of our province, near Athabasca.
After seeing the photo I contacted Darcy Boucher, a Fish and Wildlife officer in Athabasca, who set the wheels in motion to discover this bird’s story.
Shortly after I was contacted by Floyd Kunnas, Senior Wildlife Technician for the Northeast Region Fish and Wildlife Department in St. Paul, Alberta.
According to Kunnas, this particular bird was tagged two years ago in Saskatchewan by Dr. Stuart Houston as part of a turkey vulture migration study. Unlike other birds, turkey vultures are tagged on the wing and not the leg because turkey vultures cool themselves by defecating down their legs... okay!
Interestingly enough, the photo of H26 is the farthest northwest reporting of a turkey vulture in Alberta, and only one other Saskatchewan tagged turkey vulture has ever been reported and that was along the Saskatchewan border.
So, next time you see a big, black, ugly bird with a red skinhead in northern Alberta, take note; you may be looking at a turkey vulture.
Survey says! ■
For previous Outdoor Pursuits click here.