Wildlife management attempts to balance the needs of wildlife with the needs of people using the best available science. Wildlife management can include game keeping, wildlife conservation and pest control. Wildlife management draws on disciplines such as mathematics, chemistry, biology, ecology, climatology and geography to gain the best results.
Wildlife conservation aims to halt the loss in the Earth's biodiversity by taking into consideration ecological principles such as carrying capacity, disturbance and succession and environmental conditions such as physical geography, pedology and hydrology with the aim of balancing the needs of wildlife with the needs of people. Most wildlife biologists are concerned with the preservation and improvement of habitats although rewilding is increasingly being used. Techniques can include reforestation, pest control, nitrification and denitrification, irrigation, coppicing and hedge laying.
Game keeping is the management or control of wildlife for the well being of game and may include killing other animals which share the same niche or predators to maintain a high population of the more profitable species, such as pheasants introduced into woodland. In his 1933 book Game Management, Aldo Leopold, one of the pioneers of wildlife management as a science, defined it as "the art of making land produce sustained annual crops of wild game for recreational use".
Pest control is the control of real or perceived pests and can be used for the benefit of wildlife, farmers, game keepers or safety reasons. In the United States, wildlife management practices are often implemented by a governmental agency to uphold a law, such as the Endangered Species Act.
In the United Kingdom, wildlife management undertaken by several organizations including government bodies such as the Forestry Commission, Charities such as the RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts and privately hired gamekeepers and contractors. Legislation has also been passed to protect wildlife such as the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The UK government also give farmers subsidies through the Countryside Stewardship Scheme to improve the conservation value of their farms.
The history of wildlife management begins with the game laws, which regulated the right to kill certain kinds of fish and wild animal (game). In Britain game laws developed out of the forest laws, which in the time of the Norman kings were very oppressive. Under William the Conqueror, it was as great a crime to kill one of the king's deer as to kill one of his subjects. A certain rank and standing, or the possession of a certain amount of property, were for a long time qualifications indispensably necessary to confer upon any one the right of pursuing and killing game.
The Game Act of 1831 protected game birds by establishing close seasons when they could not be legally taken. The act made it lawful to take game only with the provision of a game licence and provided for the appointment of gamekeepers around the country. The purposes of the law was to balance the needs for preservation and harvest and to manage both environment and populations of fish and game.
Early game laws were also enacted in the US; - in 1839 Rhode Island closed the hunting season for white-tailed deer from May to November. Other regulations during this time focused primarily on restricting hunting. At this time, lawmakers did not consider population sizes or the need for preservation or restoration of wildlife habitats.
The late 19th century saw the passage of the first pieces of wildlife conservation legislation and the establishment of the first nature conservation societies. The Sea Birds Preservation Act of 1869 was passed in Britain as the first nature protection law in the world after extensive lobbying from the Association for the Protection of Seabirds.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds was founded as the Plumage League in 1889 by Emily Williamson at her house in Manchester as a protest group campaigning against the use of great crested grebe and kittiwake skins and feathers in fur clothing. The group gained popularity and eventually amalgamated with the Fur and Feather League in Croydon to form the RSPB. The Society attracted growing support from the suburban middle-classes as well as support from many other influential figures, such as the ornithologist Professor Alfred Newton.
The National Trust formed in 1895 with the manifesto to "...promote the permanent preservation, for the benefit of the nation, of lands, ...to preserve (so far practicable) their natural aspect." On 1 May 1899, the Trust purchased two acres of Wicken Fen with a donation from the amateur naturalist Charles Rothschild, establishing the first nature reserve in Britain. Rothschild was a pioneer of wildlife conservation in Britain, and went on to establish many other nature reserves, such as one at Woodwalton Fen, near Huntingdon, in 1910. During his lifetime he built and managed his estate at Ashton Wold in Northamptonshire to maximise its suitability for wildlife, especially butterflies. Concerned about the loss of wildlife habitats, in 1912 he set up the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves, the forerunner of The Wildlife Trusts partnership.
During the society's early years, membership tended to be made up of specialist naturalists and its growth was comparatively slow. The first independent Trust was formed in Norfolk in 1926 as the Norfolk Naturalists Trust, followed in 1938 by the Pembrokeshire Bird Protection Society which after several subsequent changes of name is now the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and it was not until the 1940s and 1950s that more Naturalists' Trusts were formed in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Cambridgeshire. These early Trusts tended to focus on purchasing land to establish nature reserves in the geographical areas they served.
The profession of wildlife management was established in the United States in the 1920s and '30s by Aldo Leopold and others who sought to transcend the purely restrictive policies of the previous generation of conservationists, such as anti-hunting activist William T. Hornaday. Leopold and his close associate Herbert Stoddard, who had both been trained in scientific forestry, argued that modern science and technology could be used to restore and improve wildlife habitat and thus produce abundant "crops" of ducks, deer, and other valued wild animals.
The institutional foundations of the profession of wildlife management were established in the 1930s, when Leopold was granted the first university professorship in wildlife management (1933, University of Wisconsin, Madison), when Leopold's textbook 'Game Management' was published (1933), when The Wildlife Society was founded, when the Journal of Wildlife Management began publishing, and when the first Cooperative Wildlife Research Units were established. Conservationists planned many projects throughout the 1940s. Some of which included the harvesting of female mammals such as deer to decrease rising populations. Others included waterfowl and wetland research. The Fish and Wildlife Management Act was put in place to urge farmers to plant food for wildlife and to provide cover for them.
In 1937, the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (also known as the Pittman-Robertson Act) was passed in the U.S.. This law was an important advancement in the field of wildlife management. It placed a 10% tax on sales of guns and ammunition. The funds generated were then distributed to the states for use in wildlife management activities and research. This law is still in effect today.
Wildlife management grew after World War II with the help of the GI Bill and a postwar boom in recreational hunting. An important step in wildlife management in the United States national parks occurred after several years of public controversy regarding the forced reduction of the elk population in Yellowstone National Park. In 1963, United States Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall appointed an advisory board to collect scientific data to inform future wildlife management. In a paper known as the Leopold Report, the committee observed that culling programs at other national parks had been ineffective, and recommended active management of Yellowstone's elk population.
Elk overpopulation in Yellowstone is thought by many wildlife biologists, such as Douglas Smith, to have been primarily caused by the extirpation of wolves from the park and surrounding environs. After wolves were removed, elk herds increased in population, reaching new highs during the mid-1930s. The increased number of elk apparently resulted in overgrazing in parts of Yellowstone. Park officials decided that the elk herd should be managed. For approximately thirty years, the park elk herds were culled: Each year some were captured and shipped to other locations, a certain number were killed by park rangers, and hunters were allowed to take more elk that migrated outside the park. By the late 1960s the herd populations dropped to historic lows (less than 4,000 for the Northern Range herd). This caused outrage among both conservationists and hunters. The park service stopped culling elk in 1968. The elk population then rebounded. Twenty years later there were 19,000 elk in the Northern Range herd, a historic high.
Since the tumultuous 1970s, when animal rights activists and environmentalists began to challenge some aspects of wildlife management, the profession has been overshadowed by the rise of conservation biology. Although wildlife managers remain central to the implementation of the Endangered Species Act and other wildlife conservation policies, conservation biologists have shifted the focus of conservation away from wildlife management's concern with the protection and restoration of single species and toward the maintenance of ecosystems and biodiversity.
There are two general types of wildlife management:
The control of wildlife through killing and hunting has been criticized by animal rights and animal welfare activists. Critics object to the real or perceived cruelty involved in some forms of wildlife management.- Environmentalists have also opposed hunting where they believe it is unnecessary or will negatively affect biodiversity. Critics of game keeping note that habitat manipulation and predator control are often used to maintain artificially inflated populations of valuable game animals (including introduced exotics) without regard to the ecological integrity of the habitat.
Game keepers in the UK claim it to be necessary for wildlife conservation as the amount of countryside they look after exceeds by a factor of nine the amount in nature reserves and national parks.
Wildlife management studies, research and lobbying by interest groups help designate times of the year when certain wildlife species can be legally hunted, allowing for surplus animals to be removed. In the United States, hunting season and bag limits are determined by guidelines set by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for migratory game such as waterfowl and other migratory gamebirds. The hunting season and bag limits for state regulated game species such as deer are usually determined by State game Commissions, which are made up of representatives from various interest groups, wildlife biologists, and researchers.
Open and closed season on deer in the UK is legislated for in the Deer Act 1991 and the Deer Act (Scotland) 1996
Open season is when wildlife is allowed to be hunted by law and is usually not during the breeding season. Hunters may be restricted by sex, age or class of animal, for instance there may be an open season for any male deer with 4 points or better on at least one side.
Where the number of animals taken is to be tightly controlled, managers may have a type of lottery system called limited. Many apply, few are chosen. These hunts may still have age, sex or class restrictions.
Closed season is when wildlife is protected from hunting and is usually during its breeding season. Closed season is enforced by law, any hunting during closed season is punishable by law and termed as illegal hunting or poaching.
In wildlife management one of the conservation principles is that the weapon used for hunting should be the one that causes the least damage to the animal and is sufficiently effective so that it hits the target. Given State and Local laws, types of weapon can also vary depending on type, size, sex of game and also the geographical layout of that specific hunting area.
Briery Creek Wildlife Management Area is a 3,164-acre (12.80 km2) Wildlife Management Area in Prince Edward County, Virginia. With terrain typical of Virginia's south-central Piedmont, it encompasses the 845-acre (3.42 km2) Briery Creek Lake, a reservoir formed by the damming of Briery Creek and Little Briery Creek. Much of the area was historically used for tobacco farming, and more recently, timber production; today the land contains a mixture of hardwoods and loblolly pine.Briery Creek Wildlife Management Area is owned and maintained by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The area is open to the public for hunting and trapping; game species include deer, turkey, quail, rabbits, and waterfowl. Fishing and boating is facilitated by two boat ramps on Briery Creek Lake. Other permissible activities include hiking, horseback riding, and primitive camping. Access for persons 17 years of age or older requires a valid hunting or fishing permit, a current Virginia boat registration, or a WMA access permit.Butte Sink Wildlife Management Area
Butte Sink Wildlife Management Area is located in Colusa, Butte, and Sutter Counties. It is wetlands managed as part of the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex and is not open to the public.
Within the 18,000-acre (73 km2) Wildlife Management Area (WMA), conservation easements have been purchased on 10,311 acres (41.73 km2), requiring landowners to maintain wetlands on their property in perpetuity. These lands are privately owned and closed to public access. In addition, a 733-acre (2.97 km2) area (owned in fee title) was established in 1980 to protect wetlands for wintering waterfowl. This area is known as the "Butte Sink Unit" (formerly known as the Butte Sink National Wildlife Refuge), and is also closed to public access.
Major refuge objectives are to provide feeding and resting habitat for wintering waterfowl; provide habitat and management for endangered, threatened, or sensitive species of concern; protect and provide habitat for neotropical migratory land birds; preserve a natural diversity and abundance of flora and fauna; and alleviate crop depredation.
The Butte Sink typically supports wintering populations of over 300,000 ducks and 100,000 geese. As 95 percent of wetlands of the Central Valley have been lost over the last 100 years, waterfowl have become increasingly dependent on the remaining wetlands within the Sacramento Valley.Chester F. Phelps Wildlife Management Area
Chester F. Phelps Wildlife Management Area (also known as the C.F. Phelps Wildlife Management Area) is a 4,539-acre (18.37 km2) Wildlife Management Area located in Fauquier and Culpeper counties, Virginia. It contains over 1,000 acres (4 km2) of open land previously used for agriculture; additional open areas may be found within the forests on the property. Most of the terrain is rolling, low, and shallow; the steepest land can be seen near the Rappahannock River, which forms a large part of the property's western border. A number of small streams cross the land, and a three-acre (12,000 m2) pond is located near its center. The forests on the property contain both pine and hardwood.The area allows seasonal hunting for deer, turkey, small game, and waterfowl. A shooting range for sighting-in rifles is available. Fishing includes opportunities for bluegill, sunfish, carp, bass, and channel catfish in Phelps Pond; the Rappahannock River at Kelly's Ford contains smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, rock bass, sunfish, carp, channel catfish, and suckers. A canoe/kayak boat ramp is available at Kelly's Ford. Other permissible activities include fishing, hiking, horseback riding, boating, and primitive camping.Chester F. Phelps Wildlife Management Area is owned and maintained by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Access for persons 17 years of age or older requires a valid hunting or fishing permit, or a WMA access permit.Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area
The Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area is a Canadian river delta wetland and Wildlife Management Area near Creston in south-central British Columbia, on the floodplain of the Kootenay River at the south end of Kootenay Lake. Predominantly marshland, it was classified as a wetland of international importance on February 21, 1994, and is also a globally significant Important Bird Area. It is one of the "few significant agricultural areas of the province", and is in the Montane Cordillera. It stretches north along Kootenay Lake for approximately 20 km, and south to the United States border. It is both the only breeding site of the Forster's tern and the only site with leopard frogs in the province, as well as one of the few Canadian habitats for the Coeur D'Alene salamander. Creston Valley provides staging and nesting areas for migratory birds on the Pacific Flyway.It covers an area of approximately 69.0 km2 of provincial Crown land. The wetland also contains the 15 km2 Duck Lake and 17 marshes. To the east are the Purcell Mountains and to the west the Selkirk Mountains.
The area is managed by the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area to prevent invasive species from establishing themselves in the wetland, particularly targeting cattails or reed canary grass. This is done by periodically drawing down the water level of the marshes. According to Brian Stushnoff, the area's manager, a strategy exists "to rehabilitate areas that get choked with vegetation, drying them up and then ploughing up the ground to get rid of the seed bank that develops over time." This also ensures broad biodiversity by preventing one plant species from dominating the region.Crooked Creek Wildlife Management Area
Crooked Creek Wildlife Management Area is a 1,796-acre (7.27 km2) Wildlife Management Area in Carroll County, Virginia. It includes forests and open land among rolling hills ranging in elevation from 2,400 feet (730 m) above sea level to 3,000 feet (910 m). Portions of Crooked Creek and its east fork are found within the area. The area was once dominated by farmland with open areas formerly used for pasture, and the sites of a number of old houses may still be found across the property. The forests contain mixed hardwoods and pine, with Rhododendron thickets along the stream.Crooked Creek Wildlife Management Area is owned and maintained by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and is open to the public. Hunting and trapping is available, with deer, turkey and small game available. Other permissible activities include trout fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and primitive camping. Access for persons 17 years of age or older requires a valid hunting or fishing permit, or a WMA access permit.Dick Cross Wildlife Management Area
Dick Cross Wildlife Management Area is a 1,400-acre (5.7 km2) Wildlife Management Area in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. Formerly known as the Elm Hill Wildlife Management Area, it sits on the north side of the Roanoke River just below the John H. Kerr Dam. The terrain is gently rolling and fairly low, between 200 and 300 feet (61 and 91 m) above sea level, and is typified by open fields maintained for the benefit of wildlife. Much of the land was once used to support the farming of cattle, and some evidence of this remains. Close to 300 acres (1.2 km2) of broad flood plain has been preserved along the river and along Allen Creek, which forms the area's eastern boundary before joining the Roanoke River. Around 165 acres (0.67 km2) of the area includes impounded wetlands specifically managed for waterfowl.Dick Cross Wildlife Management Area is owned and maintained by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The area is open to the public for hunting, trapping, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and primitive camping. Bird dog field trials are held at the property, which includes a number of kennels for that use. An observation tower near the area's wetlands provides opportunities to observe wildlife, including bald eagles that are known to overwinter in the area. Access for persons 17 years of age or older requires a valid hunting or fishing permit, or a WMA access permit.Dierssen Wildlife Management Area
Dierssen Wildlife Management Area is a Wildlife Management Area (WMA) near Seneca in Montgomery County, Maryland.The WMA covers a 40-acre (16 ha) tract of marshy woodland, with two man-made ponds ('impoundments') for wildlife, located between Chesapeake & Ohio Canal towpath (mileposts 20.08 to 20.90) and the Potomac River. The nearest access point is the Pennyfield Lock parking lot at MP 19.7.
Unlike most WMAs in Maryland, Dierrsen is a wildlife sanctuary - no hunting is allowed, but hiking and photography are encouraged. Because of the impoundments and location on the Potomac migration route, the tract is a well-known habitat for waterfowl, wading birds and songbirds. There are nesting boxes for wood ducks. Also present are white-tailed deer, grey and red fox, beaver, and wild turkeys. The site, donated as a waterfowl sanctuary, is named for Marshall Bidwell Dierssen.Fairmount Wildlife Management Area
Fairmount Wildlife Management Area is a Wildlife Management Area in Somerset County, Maryland. The wildlife management area comprises more than 4,000 acres (1,600 ha) of mostly marshland. It is located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland along the Chesapeake Bay between the Manokin and Annemessex Rivers in Somerset County. Black ducks, pintails, gadwall, wigeon, blue- and green-winged teal, and many other species of waterfowl can be found in the area.Fairystone Farms Wildlife Management Area
Fairystone Farms Wildlife Management Area is a 5,321-acre (21.53 km2) Wildlife Management Area in Patrick and Henry counties, Virginia. Named for the fairy stones that are common in the area, it comprises several parcels surrounding much of Fairy Stone State Park and the Philpott Reservoir in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The area includes steep slopes and a small amount of bottomland, including an eight-acre (3.2 ha) marsh impoundment set aside for migrating waterfowl. Forests containing oak, hickory, pine, and beech are managed for the benefit of both game animals and other wildlife.Fairystone Farms Wildlife Management Area is owned and maintained by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The area is open to the public for hunting, trapping, hiking, seasonal horseback riding, and primitive camping. Access for persons 17 years of age or older requires a valid hunting or fishing permit, or a WMA access permit.Featherfin Wildlife Management Area
Featherfin Wildlife Management Area is a 2,800-acre (11 km2) Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Prince Edward, Appomattox, and Buckingham counties, Virginia. It covers forests and marshland along 10 miles (16 km) of the Appomattox River; many stands of hardwood and pine (primarily loblolly) may be found within its boundaries. Some of these are found on old farm fields.Featherfin WMA is owned and maintained by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The area is open to the public for hunting, fishing, hiking, and primitive camping. Horseback riding is not permitted. Access for persons 17 years of age or older requires a valid hunting or fishing permit, a current Virginia boat registration, or a WMA access permit.G. Richard Thompson Wildlife Management Area
G. Richard Thompson Wildlife Management Area, one of the richest botanical areas of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, is a 4,000-acre (16 km2) Wildlife Management Area (WMA) located primarily in Fauquier County, Virginia, with small encroachments into both Warren and Clarke counties.Horsepen Lake Wildlife Management Area
Horsepen Lake Wildlife Management Area is a 2,910-acre (11.8 km2) Wildlife Management Area in Buckingham County, Virginia. It sits at about 500 feet (150 m) above sea level on the southeastern part of the drainage area of the Slate River. The area includes small streams, beaver ponds, and forests of pine, oak, and hickory. The 18-acre (7.3 ha) Horsepen Lake is also located on the property.Horsepen Lake Wildlife Management Area is owned and maintained by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The area is open to the public for hunting, trapping, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, boating, and primitive camping. Improvements include numerous parking areas, a boat launch, and a picnic shelter. Access for persons 17 years of age or older requires a valid hunting or fishing permit, a current Virginia boat registration, or a WMA access permit.New York State Wildlife Management Areas
New York State Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) are conservation areas managed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) primarily for the benefit of wildlife, and used extensively by the public for hunting, fishing, and trapping. As of 2016, the NYSDEC owns and maintains 113 WMAs, with a total area of approximately 197,000 acres (308 sq mi; 800 km2). The Wildlife Management Areas program is administered by the Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources of the NYSDEC.Smith Mountain Cooperative Wildlife Management Area
Smith Mountain Cooperative Wildlife Management Area is a 4,996-acre (20.22 km2) Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Bedford and Pittsylvania counties, Virginia. Located on the shores of Smith Mountain Lake, the WMA is owned by Appalachian Power and cooperatively managed by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Virginia Outdoors Foundation through a conservation easement that permits public access.South Marsh Island Wildlife Management Area
South Marsh Island Wildlife Management Area is a Wildlife Management Area in Somerset County, Maryland.T. M. Gathright Wildlife Management Area
T. M. Gathright Wildlife Management Area is a 13,428-acre (54.34 km2) Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Bath County, Virginia. The property's mountainous terrain includes elevations ranging from 1,400 to 3,600 feet (430 to 1,100 m) above sea level, and is divided by 2,530-acre (10.2 km2) Lake Moomaw. The northwest boundary is marked at the crest of Allegheny Mountain, along the border between Virginia and West Virginia; additional mountains include Bolar Mountain to the west of the lake, and Coles Mountain to its east. A number of streams flow eastward from the summit, terminating at Mill Creek. The primary habitat is upland hardwood forest including mixed stands of oak and hickory, with tulip poplar in some of the more fertile areas. Small non-forested openings are also maintained for the benefit of wildlife.T. M. Gathright WMA is owned and maintained by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The area is open to the public for hunting, trapping, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and primitive camping. A shooting range for sighting-in rifles is available. Access for persons 17 years of age or older requires a valid hunting or fishing permit, or a WMA access permit.Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area
Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area is located along the St. Johns River east of Orlando in Christmas on Taylor Creek Road, off SR 50.Virginia Wildlife Management Areas
Virginia Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) are state-managed protected areas that exist primarily for the benefit of wildlife. Within the Commonwealth of Virginia, 41 tracts of land have been protected as WMAs, covering a total of over 203,000 acres (317 sq mi; 820 km2). They are managed and maintained by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.Wildlife Management Area
A Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) is a protected area set aside for the conservation of wildlife and for recreational activities involving wildlife.