Wild animals, hunting and fishing

Are you interesting in hunting or catching wild animals and fish? Learn what you need to know about hunting and fishing in the USA. Find out about regulations, protected species, and staying safe.

A man standing in water fly-fishing
Photo courtesy of Daniel Case

Hunting and fishing

There are reportedly about 14 million hunters and about 33 million anglers (people who fish) in the USA. Laws about how hunting and fishing vary from state to state and even within a state.


You will be able to fish or hunt only in certain areas, on certain days and at certain times. You will be allowed to use only certain weapons and kill specific animals, and you may be required to wear orange so you are visible.

It is illegal to hunt or fish in most public parks, and you can be ticketed and fined for trapping pigeons, ducks, geese, fish, or squirrels in the city. In the wild, the hunting and fishing of these animals is regulated to a different extent depending on the state. You can find out where to hunt in every state and what the regulations are.

Hunting licenses

Check with your local police or wildlife management or natural resources officer, sometimes called a ranger or game warden. You will probably be required to buy a hunting or fishing license and keep it with you. Illegal hunting without a license is called “poaching” and results in serious penalties.


You may need a fishing permit. Fish in some rivers and lakes are toxic due to pollution in the water. You may be allowed to fish, but you will be warned not to eat your “catch”. “Catch and release” is a sporting term that describes the act of fishing to catch something, then setting it free again.

Protected species

Some animals are rare species and so they are protected by law and cannot be hunted or killed for any reason in any season. In Texas, for example, protected animals include bobcats, coyotes, frogs, mountain lions, prairie dogs, rabbits, and turtles.

Hunter safety

There have been many incidents of people hunting without taking proper care and not following the rules. About 1,000 people are shot in hunting accidents every year in North America, and about 100 of these people die from those injuries.

Wild animals

Observing wildlife is a common past-time in the US.  Some animals, unique to North America, may be new to you. You can use an online guide to learn about wildlife species in the USA.

Car accidents with wild animals

In rural areas,  a wild animal might cross the road while you are driving. This is common at dawn and dusk and in spring and fall. Trying to avoid it may result in crashing your car and causing serious injury. Experts recommend you steer straight and slow down if possible, and when safe, pull over out of traffic and remove the animal from the road, if you are able. This will prevent other drivers from swerving suddenly and having an accident.

If it is a large animal, call 911 to explain the situation, so that law enforcement or game wardens can remove the hazard and write an incident report. If anyone is injured in the collision, be sure to get medical help either immediately or the next day if the injuries are not serious. If you are out of telephone range, and no one passes by to help, proceed slowly to the nearest building with a phone to get help. Notify your insurance company for any damages to your car.

If you hit a deer or other game animal and want the meat, called “roadkill,” you may ask the game officer. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to take it with you. Worms and other parasites are a concern with any wild animal, so be sure to clean and prepare the meat carefully.

Wild animal safety

If you should encounter a wild animal while on foot either in your neighborhood or while hiking in the country, make no attempt to catch, tame, tease or injure it. Protect yourself and your companion animals and livestock, of course, but not by injuring the wild animal unless absolutely necessary to preserve life. Most wild animals will run away if you yell or throw a rock at them. Some wild animals are protected by law, while some could cause you and your pets and livestock harm. Check local regulations.

There are certain diseases you can contract from wild animals or the parasites that live on them, including tularemia, rabies, and bubonic plague. Even the mosquito can cause illness including the West Nile Virus in susceptible people.