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Predator Control in Wildlife Management: A Reexamination


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mississippi Cooperative Fish and Wildlife
Research Unit, P.O. Drawer BX, Mississippi State, MS 39762

Restrictions on harvest levels and control of predators have been practiced for centuries in some countries as a means of perpetuating game populations. Habitat management, a third strategy defined by Aldo Leopold in the 1930s, is a comparatively new strategy. Until recently, predator control was considered a basic tenet for use with other measures in practicing the art of wildlife management.

The controversies arising from extensive, long-term control of predators in the western United States spawned widespread public criticism. Public concern arose from the use of poisons, because programs were often not fully justified, and because programs facilitated the use of public lands for private gain. "Predator control" took on an unpleasant connotation except among special interests that benefited. As a management tool and philosophy, predator control was increasingly viewed as outmoded, used only as a last resort, or discontinued by many wildlife managers, administrators, and teachers.

A shrinking land base for waterfowl nesting, and its enhancement of predator efficiency, coupled with expansion of new predators into waterfowl breeding habitats continue to depress recruitment. National population numbers would appear to justify all reasonable measures to promote recovery. Prospects for increasing duck population levels using habitat management alone look dim, even under favorable climatic conditions or in the absence of harvest. To assess the potential of all management strategies to meet this challenge, there is need among wildlife professionals to distinguish between the beneficial components of predator control as operational wildlife management option, and prophylactic predator control on public land for private gain. Public support for control of nest predators to favor duck recruitment on public land may be readily available. But, professionals must have the convictions and courage to promote a supportive rationale. Predator control has been proven as an effective solution for the major sources of duck nesting loss on some areas. Excluding it from the management strategies to increase waterfowl nesting success on public lands because of perceived public opposition may forfeit the best opportunities to help a resource in trouble.

Previous Section -- Experiments Controlling Nest Predation by Reducing the Density of Nest Predators of Gamebirds in Europe (With Special Reference to Gray Partridge and Mallard)
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Next Section -- Predation and Habitats: Management by Results

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