US Fish & Wildlife Service


Date of this Version



White Paper issued March 9, 1964


In a frontier community, animal life is cheap and held in low esteem. Thus it was that a frontiersman would shoot a bison for its tongue or an eagle for amusement. In America we inherited a particularly prejudiced and unsympathetic view of animals that may at times be dangerous or troublesome. From the days of the mountain men through the period of conquest and settlement of the West, incessant war was waged against the wolf, grizzly, cougar, and the lowly coyote, and even today in the remaining backwoods the maxim persists that the only good varmint is a dead one.

But times and social values change. As our culture became more sophisticated and more urbanized, wild animals began to assume recreational significance at which the pioneer would have scoffed. Americans by the millions swarm out of the cities on vacation seeking a refreshing taste of the wilderness, of which animal life is the living manifestation. Some come to hunt; others to look, or to photograph. Recognition of this reappraisal of animal value is manifest in the myriad of restrictive laws and regulations that now protect nearly all kinds of animals from capricious destruction.

Only some of the predators and troublesome rodents and birds remain unprotected by law or public conscience. In many localities bounties are paid for their scalps, and government hunters are employed for their control. In point of fact, there are numerous situations where control of predators, rodents, and even some birds is essential to protect important agricultural and pastoral interests or human health and safety. The problem is to differentiate those local situations where control is justified from the numerous cases where the same species of animals have social values far in excess of the negligible damage they cause. the large carnivores in particular are objects of fascination to most Americans, and for every person whose sheep may be molested by a coyote there are perhaps a thousand others who would thrill to hear a coyote chorus in the night. Control programs generally fail to cope with this sliding scale of values. Particularly when professional hunters are employed, control tends to become an end in itself, and following Parkinson's law, the machinery for its accomplishment can easily proliferate beyond real need.

the present report attempts to reappraise the complex problem of animal control, with emphasis on the role played in this endeavor by the federal government As a basis for the recommendations that follow, the Advisory Board has adopted the following tenets:

1) All native animals are resources of inherent interest and value to the people of the United States. Basic governmental policy therefore should be one of husbandry of all forms of wildlife.

2) At the same time, local population control is an essential part of a management policy, where a .species is causing significant damage to other resources or crops, or where it endangers human health or safety. Control should be limited strictly to the troublesome species, preferably to the troublesome individuals, and in any event to the localities where substantial damage or danger exists.

It is the unanimous opinion of this Board that control as actually practiced today is considerably in excess of the amount that can be justified in terms of total public interest. As a consequence, many animals which have never offended private property owners or public resource values are being killed unnecessarily. The issue is how to sharpen the tools of control so that they hew only where cuts are fully justified.