WG Convenes at 2015 Wildlife Management Conference

By Travis Kocurek, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

Owl Image Credit: Michigan DNR, David Kenyon

As a continuously evolving field, wildlife damage management faces challenges reaching far beyond determining the best way to resolve damage. The work inherently affects groups with varying interests, but is dedicated to maintaining a balance among humans, wildlife, and the environment. The biennial Wildlife Damage Management Conference, organized by the TWS Wildlife Damage Management Working Group, held March 1-4 in Gatlinburg, TN, investigated that challenge while discussing recent issues and developments in human-wildlife conflict management.

Through plenary sessions, meetings, and peer presentations, the 2015 conference addressed how professionals in varied specialties carry out responsible wildlife damage management, particularly while working under public scrutiny. Charles Brown of USDA’s Wildlife Services began the conference by explaining the field’s evolution, focusing on the challenges of serving diverse interests, while maintaining a balanced responsible approach to wildlife. These challenges have grown more difficult with communications and technological advances and the diversity of American public attitudes about wildlife management. Chuck Yoest, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, explained challenges of feral swine management in Tennessee, where wild hog sport hunting − ineffective for population control − is valued recreation. Yoest highlighted education through public outreach to communicate the importance of effective feral swine control, balancing all stakeholder needs – not only for recreational hunters. Bill Stiver of the National Park Service examined the challenge from the perspective of bear management.

Sessions and posters covered damage management from invasive species control and T&E (Threatened and Endangered) species protection to diseases and predation.

Because wildlife damage management professionals will continue working under scrutiny, the field will likely continue evolving — balancing responsible wildlife damage management with the public’s needs and values. Communicating modern techniques and advancements in the scientific management of human-wildlife conflict will promote responsible stewardship of the public’s values and American wildlife.

Wildlife Services is a Strategic Partner of The Wildlife Society.