“Non-game.” Such a tough little moniker to wear for the robins, raccoons and other little critters categorized not for what they are, but for what they aren’t.
Bob Mace of Central Point, Ore., certainly thought so back in 1979.
“I got tired of the term, ‘non-game,’ recalled Mace, a retired biologist who once specialized in bighorn sheep and mountain goats. “It’s so negative.”
So Mace, then the deputy director of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Department, set out to define animals that aren’t deer, elk or other hunted “game” species by something softer, more positive.
He turned to the thesaurus and started thumbing for just the right word.
“I got to the W’s and got to ‘watchable,”’ he says. “That’s what it’s all about. My secretary said, ‘That’s the word.”’
In 1981, Mace took a box of buttons sporting a raccoon and the phrase “Watchable Wildlife” to a wildlife agency convention. What started in Oregon soon was absorbed into wildlife-management culture.
Watchable wildlife is an almost universal term given to programs that promote and manage animals consumed by people’s eyes, ears and camera lenses but not pursued with guns or rods.
“It’s about like Kleenex now; no one knows where the term came from,” says Mace. “But that’s fine.”
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