Wildlife management

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"Wildlife management triad" according to Decker et al. (2001) Human Dimensions of Wildlife Management. Wildlife management triad - management environment, wildlife, habitat, humans - "Human Dimensions of Wildlife Management" (2012) ISBN 9781421406541 p. 4.png
"Wildlife management triad" according to Decker et al. (2001) Human Dimensions of Wildlife Management.

Wildlife management is the management process influencing interactions among and between wildlife, its habitats and people to achieve predefined impacts. [2] [3] [4] [5] It attempts to balance the needs of wildlife with the needs of people using the best available science. Wildlife management can include wildlife conservation, gamekeeping and pest control. Wildlife management draws on disciplines such as mathematics, chemistry, biology, ecology, climatology and geography to gain the best results. [6]


Wildlife management aims to halt the loss in the Earth's biodiversity, [7] [8] by taking into consideration ecological principles such as carrying capacity, disturbance and succession, and environmental conditions such as physical geography, pedology and hydrology. [9] [10] [11] [12] Most wildlife biologists are concerned with the conservation and improvement of habitats; although rewilding is increasingly being undertaken. [13] Techniques can include reforestation, pest control, nitrification and denitrification, irrigation, coppicing and hedge laying.

Gamekeeping is the management or control of wildlife for the well-being of game and may include the killing of other animals which share the same niche or predators to maintain a high population of 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". [14]

Pest control is the control of real or perceived pests and can be used for the benefit of wildlife, farmers, gamekeepers or human safety. In the United States, wildlife management practices are often implemented by a governmental agency to uphold a law, such as the Endangered Species Act.

In the United Kingdom, wildlife management is 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.


Han dynasty tomb brick depicting a fishing and hunting scene 0025 - 0220 Brick Relief with Harvesting, Fishing and Hunting Scene Eastern Han Dynasty National Museum of China anagoria.jpg
Han dynasty tomb brick depicting a fishing and hunting scene

Game laws

The history of wildlife management begins with the game laws, which regulated the right to kill certain kinds of fish and wild animal (game). In Britain game laws developed out of the forest laws, which in the time of the Norman kings were very oppressive. Under William the Conqueror, it was as great a crime to kill one of the king's deer as to kill one of his subjects. A certain rank and standing, or the possession of a certain amount of property, were for a long time qualifications indispensably necessary to confer upon anyone the right of pursuing and killing game.

The Game Act of 1831 protected game birds by establishing close seasons when they could not be legally taken. The act made it lawful to take game only with the provision of a game licence and provided for the appointment of gamekeepers around the country. The purposes of the law was to balance the needs for preservation and harvest and to manage both environment and populations of fish and game. [15]

The Game Act 1831 protects game birds in England and Wales Phasianus colchicus 2 tom (Lukasz Lukasik).jpg
The Game Act 1831 protects game birds in England and Wales

Early game laws were also enacted in the US; in 1839 Rhode Island closed the hunting season for white-tailed deer from May to November. [16] 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. [16]

Emergence of wildlife conservation

The late 19th century saw the passage of the first pieces of wildlife conservation legislation and the establishment of the first nature conservation societies. The Sea Birds Preservation Act of 1869 was passed in Britain as the first nature protection law in the world [17] after extensive lobbying from the Association for the Protection of Seabirds. [18]

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds was founded as the Plumage League in 1889 by Emily Williamson at her house in Manchester [19] as a protest group campaigning against the use of great crested grebe and kittiwake skins and feathers in fur clothing. The group gained popularity and eventually amalgamated with the Fur and Feather League in Croydon to form the RSPB. [20] The Society attracted growing support from the suburban middle-classes as well as support from many other influential figures, such as the ornithologist Professor Alfred Newton. [19]

The National Trust formed in 1895 with the manifesto to "...promote the permanent preservation, for the benefit of the nation, of lands, ...to preserve (so far practicable) their natural aspect." On 1 May 1899, the Trust purchased two acres of Wicken Fen with a donation from the amateur naturalist Charles Rothschild, establishing the first nature reserve in Britain. [21] Rothschild was a pioneer of wildlife conservation in Britain, and went on to establish many other nature reserves, such as one at Woodwalton Fen, near Huntingdon, in 1910. [22] During his lifetime he built and managed his estate at Ashton Wold [23] in Northamptonshire to maximise its suitability for wildlife, especially butterflies. Concerned about the loss of wildlife habitats, in 1912 he set up the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves, the forerunner of The Wildlife Trusts partnership.

During the society's early years, membership tended to be made up of specialist naturalists and its growth was comparatively slow. The first independent Trust was formed in Norfolk in 1926 as the Norfolk Naturalists Trust, followed in 1938 by the Pembrokeshire Bird Protection Society which after several subsequent changes of name is now the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and it was not until the 1940s and 1950s that more Naturalists' Trusts were formed in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Cambridgeshire. These early Trusts tended to focus on purchasing land to establish nature reserves in the geographical areas they served.

Wildlife management in the US

The profession of wildlife management was established in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s 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. [24]

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 environment. 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:


The control of wildlife through killing and hunting has been criticized by animal rights and animal welfare activists. [25] Critics object to the real or perceived cruelty involved in some forms of wildlife management. They also argue against the deliberate breeding of certain animals by environmental organisations—who hunters pay money to kill—in pursuit of profit. [26] Additionally, they draw attention to the attitude that it is acceptable to kill animals in the name of ecosystem or biodiversity preservation, yet it is seen as unacceptable to kill humans for the same purpose; asserting that such attitudes are a form of discrimination based on species-membership i.e. speciesism. [27]

Environmentalists have also opposed hunting where they believe it is unnecessary or will negatively affect biodiversity. [28] 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.

Gamekeepers 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. [29]

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 United States Fish and Wildlife Service 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 and closed season on deer in the UK is legislated for in the Deer Act 1991 and the Deer Act (Scotland) 1996.

Open season

Open season is when wildlife is allowed to be hunted by law and is usually not 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.

Limited entry

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

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.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hunting</span> Searching, pursuing, and killing wild animals

Hunting is the human practice of seeking, pursuing, capturing, or killing wildlife or feral animals. The most common reasons for humans to hunt are to harvest food and useful animal products, for recreation/taxidermy, to remove predators dangerous to humans or domestic animals, to eliminate pests and nuisance animals that damage crops/livestock/poultry or spread diseases, for trade/tourism, or for ecological conservation against overpopulation and invasive species.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Game reserve</span> Area of land set aside for wild animals

A game reserve is a large area of land where wild animals live safely or are hunted in a controlled way for sport. If hunting is prohibited, a game reserve may be considered a nature reserve; however, the focus of a game reserve is specifically the animals (fauna), whereas a nature reserve is also, if not equally, concerned with all aspects of native biota of the area.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem</span> Ecosystem in the Rocky Mountains

The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) is one of the last remaining large, nearly intact ecosystems in the northern temperate zone of the Earth. It is located within the northern Rocky Mountains, in areas of northwestern Wyoming, southwestern Montana, and eastern Idaho, and is about 22 million acres (89,000 km2). Yellowstone National Park and the Yellowstone Caldera 'hotspot' are within it.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sambar deer</span> Species of deer

The sambar is a large deer native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia that is listed as a vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List since 2008. Populations have declined substantially due to severe hunting, local insurgency, and industrial exploitation of habitat.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gamekeepers in the United Kingdom</span> Countryside managers

A gamekeeper, or in case of those dealing with deer (deer-)stalker, is a person who manages an area of countryside to make sure there is enough game for shooting and stalking, or fish for angling, and acts as guide to those pursuing them.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Eastern elk</span> Extinct subspecies of elk native to eastern North America

The eastern elk is an extinct subspecies or distinct population of elk that inhabited the northern and eastern United States, and southern Canada. The last eastern elk was shot in Pennsylvania on September 1, 1877. The subspecies was declared extinct by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in 1880. Another subspecies of elk, the Merriam's elk, also became extinct at roughly the same time.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Culling</span> Process of segregating organisms in biology

In biology, culling is the process of segregating organisms from a group according to desired or undesired characteristics. In animal breeding, it is the process of removing or segregating animals from a breeding stock based on a specific trait. This is done to exaggerate desirable characteristics, or to remove undesirable characteristics by altering the genetic diversity of the population. For livestock and wildlife, culling often refers to the act of killing removed animals based on their individual characteristics, such as their sex or species membership, or as a means of preventing infectious disease transmission.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Boone and Crockett Club</span> Non-profit organisation in the USA

The Boone and Crockett Club is an American nonprofit organization that advocates fair chase hunting in support of habitat conservation. The club is North America's oldest wildlife and habitat conservation organization, founded in the United States in 1887 by Theodore Roosevelt. The club was named in honor of hunter-heroes of the day, Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, whom the club's founders viewed as pioneering men who hunted extensively while opening the American frontier, but realized the consequences of overharvesting game. In addition to authoring a famous "fair chase" statement of hunter ethics, the club worked for the expansion and protection of Yellowstone National Park and the establishment of American conservation in general. The Club and its members were also responsible for the elimination of commercial market hunting, creation of the National Park and National Forest Services, National Wildlife Refuge system, wildlife reserves, and funding for conservation, all under the umbrella of what is known today as the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wolf reintroduction</span> Reestablishment of extirpated native wolves

Wolf reintroduction involves the reintroduction of a portion of grey wolves in areas where native wolves have been extirpated. More than 30 subspecies of Canis lupus have been recognized, and grey wolves, as colloquially understood, comprise nondomestic/feral subspecies. Reintroduction is only considered where large tracts of suitable wilderness still exist and where certain prey species are abundant enough to support a predetermined wolf population.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Elk</span> Large antlered species of deer from North America and East Asia

The elk, or wapiti, is one of the largest species within the deer family, Cervidae, and one of the largest terrestrial mammals in its native range of North America and Central and East Asia. The word "elk" originally referred to the European variety of the moose, Alces alces, but was transferred to Cervus canadensis by North American colonists. The name "wapiti", derived from a Shawnee and Cree word meaning "white rump", is also used for C. canadensis.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hunting and shooting in the United Kingdom</span>

In the United Kingdom, the term hunting with no qualification generally refers to hunting with hounds, e.g. normally fox hunting, stag (deer) hunting, beagling, or minkhunting, whereas shooting is the shooting of game birds. What is called deer hunting elsewhere is deer stalking. According to the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) over a million people a year participate in shooting, including stalking, shooting, hunting, clay shooting and target shooting. Firearm ownership is regulated in the UK by licensing. Provisions exist for those without a Firearm or Shotgun certificate to shoot under the supervision of a certificate holder.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tule elk</span> Subspecies of mammal

The tule elk is a subspecies of elk found only in California, ranging from the grasslands and marshlands of the Central Valley to the grassy hills on the coast. The subspecies name derives from the tule, a species of sedge native to freshwater marshes on which the Tule elk feeds. When the Europeans first arrived, an estimated 500,000 tule elk roamed these regions, but by 1870 they were thought to be extirpated. However, in 1874–1875 a single breeding pair was discovered in the tule marshes of Buena Vista Lake in the southern San Joaquin Valley. Conservation measures were taken to protect the species in the 1970s. Today, the wild population exceeds 4,000. Tule elk can reliably be found in Carrizo Plain National Monument, Point Reyes National Seashore, portions of the Owens Valley from Lone Pine to Bishop, on Coyote Ridge in Santa Clara Valley, San Jose, California and in Pacheco State Park and areas surrounding San Luis Reservoir near Los Banos, California.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Leopold Report</span> 1964 report on wildlife management in US National Parks

The Leopold Report, officially known as Wildlife Management in the National Parks, is a 1963 paper composed of a series of ecosystem management recommendations that were presented by the Special Advisory Board on Wildlife Management to United States Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall. Named for its chairman and principal author, zoologist and conservationist A. Starker Leopold, the report proved influential for future preservation mandates.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of wolves in Yellowstone</span> Extirpation and reintroduction of the gray wolf to Yellowstone National Park

The history of wolves in Yellowstone includes the extirpation, absence and reintroduction of wild populations of the gray wolf to Yellowstone National Park and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. When the park was created in 1872, wolf populations were already in decline in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. The creation of the national park did not provide protection for wolves or other predators, and government predator control programs in the first decades of the 1900s essentially helped eliminate the gray wolf from Yellowstone. The last wolves were killed in Yellowstone in 1926. After that, sporadic reports of wolves still occurred, but scientists confirmed that sustainable wolf populations had been extirpated and were absent from Yellowstone during the mid-1900s.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ecology of the Rocky Mountains</span> Ecology of the Rocky Mountain range in North America

The ecology of the Rocky Mountains is diverse due to the effects of a variety of environmental factors. The Rocky Mountains are the major mountain range in western North America, running from the far north of British Columbia in Canada to New Mexico in the southwestern United States, climbing from the Great Plains at or below 1,800 feet (550 m) to peaks of over 14,000 feet (4,300 m). Temperature and rainfall varies greatly also and thus the Rockies are home to a mixture of habitats including the alpine, subalpine and boreal habitats of the Northern Rocky Mountains in British Columbia and Alberta, the coniferous forests of Montana and Idaho, the wetlands and prairie where the Rockies meet the plains, a different mix of conifers on the Yellowstone Plateau in Wyoming and in the high Rockies of Colorado and New Mexico, and finally the alpine tundra of the highest elevations.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">American Prairie</span> Nature reserve in Montana, United States

American Prairie is a prairie-based nature reserve in Central Montana being developed as a private project of the American Prairie Foundation (APF). This independent non-profit organization is creating a wildlife conservation area that aims to cover over 3 million acres (12,000 km2) through a combination of both private and public lands to establish a mixed grass prairie ecosystem with migration corridors and native wildlife.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of bison conservation in Canada</span>

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the plains bison and wood bison in Canada were hunted by nomadic indigenous hunters and white hunters alike. By the 1850s, the bison was nearly extinct, spurring a movement to save the few herds that remained. Federal government wildlife policy evolved from preservation of wilderness to utilitarian, scientific conservation and management of bison populations. The goals of these policies were often contradictory: to simultaneously preserve wildlife, promote recreation, commercialize the bison, and assert state control over Aboriginal Canadians. Bison conservation efforts were shaped by the federal government's colonialist and modernist approach to Canada's North, the management of national parks and reserves, and the influence of scientific knowledge.

Wildlife law in England and Wales is the law relating to the protection of wildlife in England and Wales. Much of existing UK law dates from pre-Victorian times. Wildlife was viewed as a resource to be used; phrases such as "game" or "sporting rights" appear. Public opinion is now much more in favour of protection of birds and mammals rather than the landowners’ interests.

The conservation of bison in North America is an ongoing, diverse effort to bring American bison back from the brink of extinction. Plains bison, a subspecies, are a keystone species in the North American Great Plains. Bison are a species of conservation concern in part because they suffered a severe population bottleneck at the end of the 19th century. The near decimation of the species during the 1800s unraveled fundamental ties between bison, grassland ecosystems, and indigenous peoples’ cultures and livelihoods.# English speakers used the word buffalo for this animal when they arrived. Bison was used as the scientific term to distinguish them from the true buffalo. Buffalo is commonly used as it continues to hold cultural significance, particularly for Indigenous people. Recovery began in the late 1800s with a handful of individuals independently saving the last surviving bison.# Dedicated restoration efforts in the 1900s bolstered bison numbers though they still exist in mostly small and isolated populations. Expansion of the understanding of bison ecology and management is ongoing. The contemporary widespread, collaborative effort includes attention to heritage genetics and minimal cattle introgression.#


  1. Decker, Daniel J.; Riley, Shawn J. (Shawn James); Siemer, William F. (2012). Human dimensions of wildlife management (2nd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 4. ISBN   978-1-4214-0654-1. OCLC   778244877.
  2. Decker, Daniel J.; Riley, Shawn J. (Shawn James); Siemer, William F. (2012). Human dimensions of wildlife management (2nd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 248. ISBN   978-1-4214-0654-1. OCLC   778244877. We then defined wildlife management as follows: The guidance of decision-making processes and implementation of practices to influence interactions among people, and between people, wildlife and wildlife habitats, to achieve impacts valued by stakeholders.
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Further reading

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