Wildlife management attempts to balance the needs of wildlife with the needs of people using the best available science. Wildlife management can include game keeping, wildlife conservation and pest control. Wildlife management has become an integrated science using disciplines such as mathematics, chemistry, biology, ecology, climatology and geography to gain the best results.
Wildlife conservation aims to halt the loss in the earths biodiversity by taking into consideration ecological principles such as carrying capacity, disturbance and succession and environmental conditions such as physical geography, pedology and hydrology with the aim of balancing the needs of wildlife with the needs of people. Most wildlife biologists are concerned with the preservation and improvement of habitats although reinstatement is increasingly being used. Techniques can include reforestation, pest control, nitrification and denitrification, irrigation, coppicing and hedge laying.
Game keeping is the management or control of wildlife for the well being of game and may include killing other animals which share the same niche or predators to maintain a high population of the more profitable species, such as pheasants introduced into woodland. In his 1933 book Game Management, Aldo Leopold, one of the pioneers of wildlife management as a science, defined it as "the art of making land produce sustained annual crops of wild game for recreational use".
Pest control is the control of real or perceived pests and can be for the benefit of wildlife, farmers, game keepers or safety reasons. In the United States, wildlife management practices are often implemented by a governmental agency to uphold a law, such as the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Many wildlife managers are employed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and by state governments.
In the United Kingdom, wildlife management undertaken by several organizations including government bodies such as the Forestry Commission, Charities such as the RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts and privately hired gamekeepers and contractors. Legislation has also been passed to protect wildlife such as the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The UK government also give farmers subsidies through the Countryside Stewardship Scheme to improve the conservation value of their farms.
Although wildlife management in the U.S. did not emerge as a profession until the 1930s, there were some early attempts at management. The earliest game law dates back to 1839, when Rhode Island closed the hunting season for white-tailed deer from May to November. Other regulations during this time focused primarily on restricting hunting. At this time, lawmakers did not consider population sizes or the need for preservation or restoration of wildlife habitats.
The profession of wildlife management was established in the United States in the 1920s and '30s by Aldo Leopold and others who sought to transcend the purely restrictive policies of the previous generation of conservationists, such as anti-hunting activist William T. Hornaday. Leopold and his close associate Herbert Stoddard, who had both been trained in scientific forestry, argued that modern science and technology could be used to restore and improve wildlife habitat and thus produce abundant "crops" of ducks, deer, and other valued wild animals.
The institutional foundations of the profession of wildlife management were established in the 1930s, when Leopold was granted the first university professorship in wildlife management (1933, University of Wisconsin, Madison), when Leopold's textbook 'Game Management' was published (1933), when The Wildlife Society was founded, when the Journal of Wildlife Management began publishing, and when the first Cooperative Wildlife Research Units were established. Conservationists planned many projects throughout the 1940s. Some of which included the harvesting of female mammals such as deer to decrease rising populations. Others included waterfowl and wetland research. The Fish and Wildlife Management Act was put in place to urge farmers to plant food for wildlife and to provide cover for them.
In 1937, the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (also known as the Pittman-Robertson Act) was passed in the U.S.. This law was an important advancement in the field of wildlife management. It placed a 10% tax on sales of guns and ammunition. The funds generated were then distributed to the states for use in wildlife management activities and research. This law is still in effect today.
Wildlife management grew after World War II with the help of the GI Bill and a postwar boom in recreational hunting. An important step in wildlife management in the United States national parks occurred after several years of public controversy regarding the forced reduction of the elk population in Yellowstone National Park. In 1963, United States Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall appointed an advisory board to collect scientific data to inform future wildlife management. In a paper known as the Leopold Report, the committee observed that culling programs at other national parks had been ineffective, and recommended active management of Yellowstone's elk population.
Elk overpopulation in Yellowstone is thought by many wildlife biologists, such as Douglas Smith, to have been primarily caused by the extirpation of wolves from the park and surrounding environs. After wolves were removed, elk herds increased in population, reaching new highs during the mid-1930s. The increased number of elk apparently resulted in overgrazing in parts of Yellowstone. Park officials decided that the elk herd should be managed. For approximately thirty years, the park elk herds were culled: Each year some were captured and shipped to other locations, a certain number were killed by park rangers, and hunters were allowed to take more elk that migrated outside the park. By the late 1960s the herd populations dropped to historic lows (less than 4,000 for the Northern Range herd). This caused outrage among both conservationists and hunters. The park service stopped culling elk in 1968. The elk population then rebounded. Twenty years later there were 19,000 elk in the Northern Range herd, a historic high.
Since the tumultuous 1970s, when animal rights activists and environmentalists began to challenge some aspects of wildlife management, the profession has been overshadowed by the rise of conservation biology. Although wildlife managers remain central to the implementation of the Endangered Species Act and other wildlife conservation policies, conservation biologists have shifted the focus of conservation away from wildlife management's concern with the protection and restoration of single species and toward the maintenance of ecosystems and biodiversity.
Types of wildlife management
There are two general types of wildlife management:
- Manipulative management acts on a population, either changing its numbers by direct means or influencing numbers by the indirect means of altering food supply, habitat, density of predators, or prevalence of disease. This is appropriate when a population is to be harvested, or when it slides to an unacceptably low density or increases to an unacceptably high level. Such densities are inevitably the subjective view of the land owner, and may be disputed by animal welfare interests.
- Custodial management is preventive or protective. The aim is to minimize external influences on the population and its habitat. It is appropriate in a national park where one of the stated goals is to protect ecological processes. It is also appropriate for conservation of a threatened species where the threat is of external origin rather than being intrinsic to the system.
'The control of wildlife through culling and hunting has been criticized by animal rights and animal welfare activists. Critics object to the real or perceived cruelty involved in some forms of wildlife management.
Environmentalists have also opposed hunting where they believe it is unnecessary or will negatively affect biodiversity. Critics of game keeping note that habitat manipulation and predator control are often used to maintain artificially inflated populations of valuable game animals (including introduced exotics) without regard to the ecological integrity of the habitat.
Game keepers in the UK claim it to be necessary for wildlife conservation as the amount of countryside they look after exceeds by a factor of nine the amount in nature reserves and national parks.
Management of hunting seasons
Wildlife management studies, research and lobbying by interest groups help designate times of the year when certain wildlife species can be legally hunted, allowing for surplus animals to be removed. In the United States, hunting season and bag limits are determined by guidelines set by the US Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for migratory game such as waterfowl and other migratory gamebirds. The hunting season and bag limits for state regulated game species such as deer are usually determined by State game Commissions, which are made up of representatives from various interest groups, wildlife biologists, and researchers.
Open season is when wildlife is allowed to be hunted by law and is usually during the breeding season. Hunters may be restricted by sex, age or class of animal, for instance there may be an open season for any male deer with 4 points or better on at least one side.
Where the number of animals taken is to be tightly controlled, managers may have a type of lottery system called limited. Many apply, few are chosen. These hunts may still have age, sex or class restrictions.
Closed season is when wildlife is protected from hunting and is usually during its breeding season. Closed season is enforced by law, any hunting during closed season is punishable by law and termed as illegal hunting or poaching.
Type of weapon used
In wildlife management one of the conservation principles is that the weapon used for hunting should be the one that causes the least damage to the animal and is sufficiently effective so that it hits the target. Given State and Local laws, types of weapon can also vary depending on type, size, sex of game and also the geographical layout of that specific hunting area.
- Fisheries management
- Game law
- Game Warden
- Goose egg addling
- List of politically endorsed exterminations of animals
- Nuisance wildlife management
- Pest control
- Range condition scoring
- Remote-controlled animal
- Threshold host density
- Wildlife conservation
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- League Against Cruel Sports - Consequences of the Shoot
- RSPB - Which birds are threatened
- National Gamekeepers' Organisation Charitable Trust
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