How A Wildlife Manager Gets It Done
WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT TOOLS
Now that we know what a wildlife manager is supposed to do, how do they get it done? Like people in any job, wildlife managers have tools.
MANAGEMENT PLANS describe the tools a wildlife manager will use for keeping wildlife within the carrying capacity of its habitat. These plans must be flexible since the wildlife populations, habitat factors and social tolerances may change from year to year. It's also important to note that the best wildlife management plan often uses a combination of all, the management tools available.
To develop a management plan, wildlife managers must collect good information on habitat and wildlife numbers throughout the year - every year - to determine the type of tools needed.
HUNTING AND TRAPPING
Today, hunting and trapping are closely regulated so that some of the excess animals in a population are removed each year. In fact, hunting and trapping remain as one of the most important management tools because hunters' can be controlled by laws and regulations.
Hunting and trapping seasons are longer and the harvests are greater during the years of abundant game populations. Seasons may be shortened and harvests smaller when game numbers are down. In this way, hunting and trapping can be used to keep wildlife populations healthy, to keep wildlife within the carrying capacity of their habitat and to protect the habitat from damage. They are also used to reduce selected animal populations to within social tolerances, even if the habitat and carrying capacity are good.
RESEARCH AND HARVEST SURVEYS
In order to properly manage any wildlife species, biologists and managers must have a good understanding of all the animals. Research allows biologists and the rest of us to learn all we can about animals and management. Research objectives include:
Identify habitat needs for individual species, and evaluate the impacts of a variety of land use practices;
Study and explain the population dynamics of wildlife under varying habitat and environmental conditions;
Evaluate the social and economic values of wildlife; and
Educate other biologists, wildlife resource agencies, legislators and the public of the results of the research and the needs of the animals, habitat and the public.
Surveys are conducted annually as a vital part of wildlife management programs. The surveys are needed to evaluate:
How many animals were harvested from certain populations or areas;
Trends in animal population levels, habitat conditions or crop impacts;
Hunter pressure and over harvest patterns on public and private land;
Basic biological information of the sex and age of the animals harvested.
LAWS AND REGULATIONS
If a species of animal is too few in number, those animals can be protected by LAWS. Hunting can be reduced or stopped to help lower their death rate increasing population levels; as with threatened or endangered species. In some cases, laws may even be passed to protect the habitat. Laws are mostly used when there is a need for long-term or permanent actions.
If there are too many animals, hunting can be used to reduce their numbers to the proper level. Hunting REGULATIONS, for example, are often changed from year to year to reflect changes in animal numbers. Hunting season lengths may also be adjusted to reflect the animal populations. Daily bag limits or harvest quotas - the number of animals that hunters can take in a day or season - can also be set larger or smaller.
WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREAS
WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREAS provide another tool for wildlife managers. These are lands which are set aside for the purpose of increasing wildlife numbers by protecting wildlife and key habitat.
One of the major goals of a wildlife management area is to protect at least a minimal number of animals so the population can increase. But this type of protection can defeat its own purpose. Deer and elk, for example, may increase in numbers to the point where there are too many for the available food supply. Damage to the habitat then occurs. If a wildlife management area is to be successful, the management plan must be flexible so wildlife managers can keep animals, even animals in a WMA, in balance with their habitat.
WATERFOWL REFUGES are perhaps the most Successful of special wildlife management areas. A waterfowl refuge may be a breeding area, a wintering area or a migration refuge between summering and wintering areas. Breeding area refuges provide nesting habitat for producing young. Wintering area refuges shelter the birds so they can survive until the next breeding season. A migration refuge provides a resting and feeding spot for birds traveling to and from breeding or wintering areas.
Wildlife Management Areas are effective only when correctly used in combination with other management tools. Even though an area may be managed for a specific animal, most wildlife species benefit from the land and management practices.
STOCKING can be used as a management tool to start new wildlife populations or to help areas that have small populations. The most effective way is to trap wild animals from other established populations and transplant them into new areas because these animals already know how to survive in the wild.
Stocking was begun more than 50 years ago in Montana. Among the wildlife species that were introduced to Montana through stocking were the ring-necked pheasant, Hungarian partridge and Merriam's turkey. One of the problems of the early stocking programs, however, was that wildlife managers did not always consider the limitations of habitat and social acceptance.
Today, wildlife managers carefully study the areas before stocking, thus increasing the chances of the animal's survival , coexistence with existing species and people's desire to have them there.