U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Published in: N. J. Silvy (Ed.), The wildlife techniques manual, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD: 232-269.


Wildlife management is often thought of in terms of protecting, enhancing, and nurturing wildlife populations and the habitat needed for their well-being. However, many species at one time or another require management actions to reduce conflicts with people, other wildlife species, or other resources. Examples include an airport manager modifying habitats to reduce gull (family Laridae) activity near runways, a forester poisoning pocket gophers (family Geomyidae) 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. These are just a few of many examples (e.g., Fig. 34.1).

Wildlife-damage management is an increasingly important part of the wildlife profession because of expanding human populations and intensified land-use practices. Wildlife damage in the United States approximates $22 billion (hereafter, all currency given in U.S. dollars) in losses annually (Conover 200l). 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 scrutinized more carefully to ensure that their actions are justified, environmentally safe, humane, and in the public interest. Thus, wildlife-damage management 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 management programs can be thought of as having 4 parts: (1) problem definition, (2) ecology of the problem species, (3) management methods application, and (4) evaluation of management effort. 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. Management 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 management effort permits an assessment of the reduction in damage in relation to costs and impact of the management effort on target and nontarget populations. Emphasis is often placed on integrated wildlife-damage management, whereby several damage management methods are used in combination and coordinated with other management practices being used at that time.

This chapter focuses on techniques related to parts 1 (problem definition) and 3 (management methods application). Each major section on groups of wildlife species has 3 parts: (1) assessment of damage, (2) identification of damage by individual species, and (3) management techniques, which is an elaboration of those listed under each of the species.