Eastern Wildlife Damage Control Conferences


Date of this Version

October 1997


Published in Proceedings of the Eighth Eastern Wildlife Damage Management Conference, Roanoke, Virginia, October 16–19, 1997, edited by James A. Parkhurst. Copyright © 1997 by the authors.


From colonial times until the 19th century, the dominant American view of wildlife and its management was dualistic—wildlife species were divided into good animals (those which had commercial value or could be eaten) or bad animals (those which threatened the colonists’ safety or food supply). Philosophically, early colonial Americans believed that the environment was to be manipulated for man’s purposes. Under the impact of modernization, Darwinian influence, over-exploitation of resources, and environmentally-conscious professionals, Americans in the late 19th century began to appreciate the recreational value of wildlife and to develop a more protective attitude toward it. Still the dichotomy between good and bad wildlife prevailed, with “good” species now being those that could be hunted. The world wars and the Great Depression halted the tilt toward a more protective approach to wildlife as Americans became more concerned with economic matters and agricultural productivity. Only during the prosperous post-World War II era, did the “ecological” approach to wildlife seem to gain ascendancy over the traditional dualistic, consumptive views. Implementation of protective game laws and science-based wildlife management had their intended result as wildlife populations soared to levels not seen since colonial times. However, these increasing wildlife populations had unexpected consequences as they moved into urban areas and wildlife damage intensified. Since World War II, more Americans have shown a greater interest in, and concern about, their wildlife legacy. However, this increasingly diverse clientele for wildlife has resulted in a period of rising tensions and deepening divisions within society about how wildlife should be managed.