New evidence of the greater efficacy and social acceptability of nonlethal deterrents to livestock depredation by large carnivores is the focus of a series of papers published as a Special Feature in the Journal of Mammalogy.
Scientists from The Ohio State University are part of the interdisciplinary group of wildlife biologists and social scientists compiling new data that supports a paradigm shift from lethal control of predators to coexistence via nonlethal deterrents.
Attitudes toward predator management focus of Ohio State scientists work
Kristina Slagle and colleagues investigated attitudes toward predator management in the United States compared to 1995 attitudes and found that while the American public remains generally supportive of predator control broadly, the perceived humaneness of lethal methods of control has declined over the past two decades.
“That we were able to measure the humaneness of present-day lethal control methods that have been used for decades or centuries is an indication that perhaps the field of predator control is in need of innovation,” said Slagle.
The scientists measured the humaneness of four nonlethal and 5 lethal predator management strategies, as well as assessed public attitudes toward predator control and management practices.
“Our findings support earlier work suggesting people generally do not prefer lethal methods, and agencies relying on lethal methods may need to employ a greater variety of control methods in the future if they wish to acknowledge public preferences,” said Slagle.
Slagle is a post-doctoral researcher working with Assistant Professor Alia Dietsch in Ohio State’s School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR). At the time of the study she was a doctoral student with Jeremy Bruskotter, an associate professor in the SENR and co-author on the Special Feature article.
In another paper in the Special Feature that examines the controversial case of wolf (Canis lupus) hunting in Michigan, Bruskotter and colleagues evaluated whether the proposed public hunt of wolves would bring about the outcomes desired by the agency (i.e. to reduce threats to livestock and humans, increase human tolerance for wolves), and the extent to which the proposed hunt aligns with general principles of wildlife conservation. The authors concluded that the planned hunt was unlikely to bring about the desired outcomes, in part, because assessed risks associated with wolves are already extremely low. Furthermore, they found that proponents of the hunt misrepresented the science surrounding wolves, as well as the role of science in policy-making, thereby violating a principle of wildlife management.
Bradley Bergstrom, a professor in the Department of Biology at Valdosta State University organized the Special Feature and provides an introduction that reviews the science and history of predator control.
Other articles in the series examine the effectiveness of adaptive use of nonlethal strategies over a 7-year program for minimizing wolf–sheep conflict in Idaho; the suspension of lethal control of dingoes and allowing their social systems to stabilize on large cattle stations in Australia; and the underestimated mortality rate of gray wolves in Wisconsin due to unreported illegal take, or poaching.
Jeremy T. Bruskotter