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Wildlife management is often thought of in terms of protecting, enhancing, and nurturing wildlife populations and the habitat needed for their wellbeing. However, many species at one time or another require management actions to reduce conflicts with people or with other wildlife species. Examples include an airport manager modifying habitats to reduce gull activity near runways, a forester poisoning pocket gophers to increase tree seedling survival in a reforestation project, or a biologist trapping an abundant predator or competing species to enhance survival of an endangered species.
Wildlife damage control is an increasingly important part of the wildlife management profession because of expanding human populations and intensified land-use practices. Concurrent with this growing need to reduce wildlife-people conflicts, public attitudes and environmental regulations are restricting use of some of the traditional tools of control such as toxicants and traps. Agencies and individuals carrying out control programs are being more carefully scrutinized to ensure that their actions are justified, environmentally safe, and in the public interest. Thus, wildlife damage control activities must be based on sound economic, ecological, and sociological principles and carried out as positive, necessary components of overall wildlife management programs.
Wildlife damage control programs can be thought of as having four parts: (1) problem definition; (2) ecology of the problem species; (3) control methods application; and (4) evaluation of control. Problem definition refers to determining the species and numbers of animals causing the problem, the amount of loss or nature of the conflict, and other biological and social factors related to the problem. Ecology of the problem species refers to understanding the life history of the species, especially in relation to the conflict. Control methods application refers to taking the information gained from parts 1 and 2 to develop an appropriate management program to alleviate or reduce the conflict. Evaluation of control allows an assessment of the reduction in damage in relation to costs and impact of the control on target and nontarget populations and the environment. Increasingly, emphasis is being placed on integrated pest management whereby several control methods are combined and coordinated with other management practices in use at that time.