The Principles

To get a basic understanding of wildlife biology and management: start with the principles.


One of the first classes you take getting your degree in Wildlife is Principles of Wildlife Management. My favorite professor, Dr. Elliott, taught this class and started out his notes with this:

“Wildlife Management: The application of ecological knowledge to populations of animals and plants in a manner that STRIKES A BALANCE between the needs of animals and the needs of people.”

Regardless to say, the “needs of the people” are changing rapidly. The “old” definition of Wildlife Management was:

“…the art of making land and water produce wildlife for the rod and gun (the fisherman and hunter) – 1960’s

Today, wildlife-related activities are becoming more passive while specialty user-groups are increasing. Sustenance hunting is no longer the top use of managed areas; they now cater to birders, botanists, hikers, and so on. With this increase of use, there is also an inverse decline in some users. The age of people utilizing these areas is extremely skewed to mature adults and older generations. There have been huge efforts to engage and expose young kids to the outdoors; but without them involved, we may lose everything we’ve worked so hard to achieve. That being said, while user-groups are increasing, the actual quantity and quality of habitat is declining, and access to areas for fish and wildlife related recreation is decreasing.

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Recently, the way areas are managed has come into conflict with public opinion. With so many users, its hard to cater to everyone. Imagine trying to manage a specific area for deer hunting but you have people hiking and bird-watching through it… You can see where conflict would arise.

There are two different approaches to management:

  1. Featured Species Approach: Manage an area in such a way as to promote the habitat and population growth of a few selected species. e.g., manage an area to promote deer, turkey, and tree squirrel populations.
  2. Species Richness Approach: Manage habitat so that the area would support a vast array of different wildlife species. e.g., manage an area to promote songbirds, bats, voles, deer, snakes, salamanders, grouse, butterflies, etc.

Which one would you choose? What you may not realize is that they both have pros and cons. For example, if you went with a featured species approach you’re obviously only catering to a select group of users. For certain species, managing for deer lets say, you’d also be inadvertently be managing for turkeys, squirrels, and other mast eating animals (we’ll go into detail on that later). The management style for deer compliments whats needed for turkeys and squirrels. You also need a lot of acreage to manage for these types of animals. The land you need to sustain a healthy deer population is a lot less than what you’d need for voles or butterflies for example.

On the other hand, with a species richness approach you get more into trying to manage people plus multiple species of animals. With featured species (deer, turkey, etc) you may be catering mainly to hunters, but with species richness you have various types of users that a hunter may not be too thrilled about sharing with – hence the conflict.


Imagine you’re in charge of managing an area. Which approach would you choose? Should it be left to your feelings on management alone? If you asked some of your users their thoughts on management, they may say one of these three things:

3 Different Philosophies of Wildlife Management:

  1. Wildlife should be managed to satisfy immediate human needs and desires. Wildlife has no value except to fulfill human needs.
  2. Wildlife has an inherent value of its own and should be recognized and preserved because it is so unique and special.
  3. Wildlife should be managed and preserved for future generations. Wildlife managers have a fiduciary responsibility to manage wildlife resources for the next generation.

If your had three people coming to utilize your management area and they each said one of these things, what would you do? Could you cater to them and meet everyones needs while meeting the needs of the animals and habitat you’re in charge of as well? What value would YOU put on wildlife?

Wildlife professionals have to develop a wildlife philosophy that coincides with your personal values. Why? Because you will need to justify to the public the value of your management goals or regulations.

I believe thats enough to think about for one afternoon, don’t you? 🙂

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