North Carolina Hunter Safety Course


Carrying Capacity

Each piece of land has a specific carrying capacity. The carrying capacity for a piece of land is the number of animals that the land can sustain without damage to the habitat or the animals. As in the illustration above, imagine the carrying capacity as a lake - the annual reproduction of wildlife (the rain) continuously replenishes the habitat. However the habitat can only hold so much wildlife. The runoff from the dam indicates the different factors that will affect the wildlife population in a habitat. These animals are known as the harvestable surplus. They are the animals that would expire due to other factors, and thus can be harvested by hunters without damaging the population. The quality and number of wildlife on any given piece of land is affected by the following factors (known as limiting factors):

Habitat Destruction

As previously mentioned, this is the greatest immediate threat to wildlife populations. Every day, urban and industrial development destroys precious natural resources. Reducing the size of a habitat also reduces the carrying capacity of that habitat.


Runoff or air contaminants from industrial plants or factories can damage or kill plant life and wildlife. Such pollution often reduces an area's carrying capacity, or renders an area inhabitable for wildlife.


Examples of this are chronic wasting disease, Hemorrhagic fever and parasites.


Drought conditions dry up watering holes, and snow and ice cover food sources. Too much rain can damage nesting sites.


Predators prey on the very young, old and sick animals for food.


This usually occurs when there are too many animals and not enough food.


Hunting removes the overpopulation of wildlife in a given area.


Loss of habitat to development increases the occurrences of wildlife being hit by vehicles.