Date of this Version
Published at Univ. of Calif., Davis. 2014. Pp. 3-11
Since becoming a wildlife biologist 40 years ago, I have seen many changes. Yet some things have remained the same, like the economic impact of wildlife damage, which was high in 1974 and even higher now. In 2014, the worldwide cost of damage by vertebrate pests to agriculture will exceed $1 billion. The world’s human population has increased at an unprecedented rate, while some wildlife populations have also burgeoned over the past 40 years due to land-use changes and effective management programs. These simultaneous human and wildlife population increases have led to increasing conflicts between humans and wildlife. Nor has the international nature of damage changed: vertebrate pest control remains vital for agricultural production everywhere. And some types of wildlife damage are unchanged, such as livestock predation, bird damage to agricultural crops, and rodent damage to crops and stored grains. What has changed over the last 40 years? I see increasing complexity in the types of problems, in the solutions, and in the political landscape under which we work. Damage problems have become more complex, with invasive species being transported around the world, and with zoonotic diseases associated with wildlife becoming more prevalent. Solutions to damage problems have also become more complex, as simpler solutions have already been employed; solutions being sought now are more scientifically difficult and require collaboration by wildlife biologists with an increasing number of other scientific disciplines, such as toxicologists, geneticists, and epidemiologists. And society itself has become more complex, demanding solutions that not only prevent damage, but that are environmentally sound and politically acceptable. What does the future bring? Human population growth will mean more wildlife damage issues. Greater travel and international shipping will bring an increase in invasive species, and global warming will bring an increase in zoonotic diseases. Solutions will need to be innovative and reflect the complexity of the problems.