Auburn Offers New Degree in Wildlife Enterprise Management

(Editor's Note: Numerous universities offer degrees in wildlife and fisheries management for future biologists. However Auburn University has now created a specific degree for individuals who are interested in pursuing the business side of outdoor recreation, including hunting and fishing businesses. As noted in the Auburn news release below, billions of dollars are spent every year in the pursuit of outdoor fun. Now comes the opportunity for professional training for those who wish to capitalize on that.)

Mike Boyd and his son, Lamar, operate one of the most popular and successful waterfowl guide businesses in Mississippi - Beaver Dam Hunting Services ( Now Auburn University is offering a bona fide academic degree to aid folks interested in owning and operating similar businesses in the outdoor recreation industry. (Photo: Richard Simms)

AUBURN Ala. – Students who enjoy the outdoors will want to explore Auburn University’s new degree program that provides the education and skills needed for a variety of careers in hunting and fishing industries.

“The degree will help develop Auburn students as future leaders in outdoor enterprises nationally and internationally,” Auburn President Steven Leath said.

Auburn’s Board of Trustees approved the new wildlife enterprise management degree at its June 8 meeting. Official enrollment will begin in fall 2019 pending approval by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education this December.

Students will take classes across the Auburn campus, primarily in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, College of Human Sciences and the Harbert College of Business. Courses will include wildlife management, hotel and restaurant management, accounting and marketing, to name a few. In addition to earning the new bachelor’s degree, students will earn a minor in business.

“Graduates will hit the ground running with lodges, hunting preserves, fishing resorts, outdoor experience companies and many other types of consumptive-use businesses,” said Dean Janaki Alavalapati, dean of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.

While a professional academic degree will no doubt aid individuals and the outdoor industry as a while, Mike Boyd and his son, Lamar, with Beaver Dam Hunting Services ( would likely tell you that nothing can substitute the education that comes with days on the water and in the woods. (Photo: Richard Simms)

According to the Outdoor Industry Association’s 2017 report, The Outdoor Recreation Economy, consumer spending on outdoor recreation contributes $887 billion to the U.S. economy, employs 7.6 million Americans and generates $125 billion in tax revenues.

“We hope to attract students from across the country as we bring the outdoors inside the classroom,” said Stephen Ditchkoff, the William R. and Fay Ireland Distinguished Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Management in Auburn’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences. “In five years, we anticipate 25-30 students in each incoming class for a total of around 120 students in the program.”

Auburn is one of two universities in the country to create this type of program, with Kansas State being the other.

“We developed our program based on our interviews with experts in the hunting and fishing lodge management industry,” said Mark Smith, the W. Kelly Mosley Environmental Associate Professor of Wildlife Management at Auburn and specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. “They gave us a list of skills that the ideal graduate needs.”

Ditchkoff and Smith consulted with sporting organizations such as John Burrell’s High Adventure Company, a global leader in outdoor recreation facilities. High Adventure has locations around the globe, from the United States to Argentina to Africa.

“One exciting aspect is that students can apply for internships,” Ditchkoff said. “High Adventure has numerous internships ready for our students. We expect to have 75-100 internships each year for our students at High Adventure and other companies. Students on internships will gain valuable, on-the-job training. It is not for class credit but is for experience. Students will not pay tuition during those semesters.”

Burrell, president of High Adventure, added, “We can’t get qualified employees fast enough, and that limits the business opportunities we can consider. We are extremely excited about this new major that will shape these young professionals.”

Graduates of the Auburn program will be in an excellent position to join outdoor companies, from an individual landowner’s operation to larger corporations.

“It could be in a range of places like single-owner hunting or fishing operation in the southeastern United States, a corporate retreat facility focused on outdoor experiences or even an African safari outfitter,” Smith said.

More information is available online here

Read more about Beaver Dam Hunting Services here.

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Richard Simms is a professional journalist and fishing guide in Chattanooga. (See He is also a former wildlife officer for TWRA, a book author and a self-proclaimed "River Rat" with a sincere desire for spreading the message about our bountiful natural resources and the people charged with using, or protecting them.


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