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Vertebrate pest control has the dual objectives of maximizing efficacy and minimizing nontarget hazard. The task in design is to make these objectives complementary, rather than mutually exclusive. Historically, vertebrate pest control has emphasized target control as a single objective, with nontarget impact a subsequent, secondary consideration. This sequence necessarily constrains the capacity of the design process to minimize nontarget impact. I describe a framework for the design of vertebrate pest control which is based on comparative evaluation of the socioecology of target and potential nontarget species. Using this approach, control systems are designed which focus on and exploit identified differences between target and nontarget species. This approach aids the design of control systems which optimize efficacy and nontarget impact. Further, it facilitates identification of needed research and development, specifies potential problems of nontarget impact, and enables system redesign and refinement prior to implementation. The approach is illustrated with the example of poisoning programs for feral pig control in Australia.