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Modern wildlife management in the field flows from data analysis to prescriptions, followed by checks and adaptations for improvement. It is a dynamic system. Following data collection and diagnoses, prescriptions can be made. Prescriptions about what to do with populations, animal spaces, and people are the result of a complex set of decisions. It is well known that no species can be managed well alone. Most managers must work with groups of animals because they occur in the same vicinity or even in the same ecological community. Recognizing that groups or sets of animals must be managed simultaneously and that computer aids to decision making are needed because of the complex nature of the managed system, nevertheless, familiarity with the individual species is necessary. Some understanding of the basis for the prescriptions is needed, not only for general interest, but also as a basis for making decisions about them and making adjustments to cause them to match site-specific conditions that are impossible to report on most data forms. It is likely that every site is unique because of the group of animals, land holder's objectives and the characteristics of each area.
The Roles of Wildlife
The thinking land manager will continually ask about the roles of wildlife, why they are important, and why they should be managed . The public often asks about the importance of wildlife. It is good to review this question briefly, for without an understanding of the roles of wildlife, fieldwork may not make any sense. Knowledge of only one or two of the positive roles may be sufficient for most situations, but the seven roles listed here, if presented together, should be quite convincing. (Elsewhere within the R* System, the relationship of these notes with Type 2 objectives will be made clear.)
Some people take special pleasure in realizing the one or more reasons why they, personally, are interested in wildlife and its management and conservation.
Seven Positive Potential Roles of Wildlife (potentially re-formulated as objectives)
1. A Measure of Land Health
Abundant wildlife is a measure of land health. Abundant populations, both in species richness (number of species present) and density, are indicative of an inter-related, well-balanced, natural community. Wildlife integrate a variety of environmental and other factors and display their interactive functions to the practiced observer. In this role, wildlife is a monitor, a sensing device by which land sickness or dysfunction can be detected and cured by skillful management.
2. Hunting and Trapping
Wildlife can provide important recreational and economic opportunities for individuals and businesses in the vicinity. Hunting is an activity depending on abundant amounts of a variety of game that can be pursued in reasonably pleasant surroundings. Game can be one foundation to the economy of a region.
Wildlife, as it has in the past, can provide inspiration for songs, legends, works of art, and can add meaning to human activities.
Wildlife is a part of the natural character of land. A woodland without birds is likely to seem strange and unnatural. Wildlife can provide a sense of natural completeness to areas.
Wildlife can add color, motion, the unexpected, and a variety of songs and sounds to the environment. Observing an animal for the first time or in a particular environment can provide great pleasure for people.
Not only hunting, but other forms of recreation are based on wildlife. Bird watching and photography are examples. Wildlife adds untold extra benefits to hiking and camping.
7. Natural System Functions or Services
The Negative Roles of Wildlife
The negative roles of wildlife in the greater environment, both monetary and aesthetic, should also be considered by the manager so that net effects can be evaluated.
Wildlife may cause injury to crops, feedlots, forest regeneration, grasslands, and livestock. (Whether profits are reduced or not must be decided in each case.) They may become so abundant that they are destructive or intolerable near human structures. Some species may build up populations that can serve as vectors of human disease. In much of the state, rabies is a problem. Extensive habitat work can create high populations of a dominant rabies carrier - the fox or raccoon.
In discussing wildlife damage, there is a big difference between the injury that animals do to trees and plants and the actual damage they cause. Damage is measured by loss of profit, or actual benefits that are forgone. Rabbits may browse on trees but unless that can be shown to reduce significantly the profits received from the final forest harvest, that is only injury, not damage.
In some areas where regeneration is planned, mice and birds may have to be controlled to allow seeds to germinate and a plantation to start.
In severe winters, girdling of tree stock may occur requiring animal reductions or wire protection for trees.
Sometimes in areas where deer have low densities, the population can build rapidly and may cause some problems with forestation.
The need for bird control will have to be monitored if compost or other solid waste is used over wildlife areas.
Harmful reptiles may create a problem in some areas.
EDGE, MAMMALS, SONGBIRDS, AND COOPERATIVES
In general, for small mammals and many bird species, the more edge, the greater will be species numbers (richness), abundance of animals, and diversity. A circle provides the minimum edge for an enclosed area.
General guides for increasing mammals and benefits from them:
Study the specific recommendations for each species presented in the following sections.
Songbirds are an excellent index to the diversity and health of an area. The number of species, number of breeding pairs, density, and total birds tend to increase to a point, usually when the area has abundant diverse vegetation.
Birds, along with other wildlife, are an important factor in mineral recycling, dispersal of seeds, and insect population. They are a valuable recreational and aesthetic resource wherever they are found.
There are over 240 bird species commonly found in the state.
General guides for increasing songbirds and benefits from them:
Landowners of large tracts may lease their land for hunting and engage in various programs with state and federal agencies for wildlife management, related recreation and other benefits. Owners of smaller as well as larger tracts might consider forming a wildlife-oriented cooperative. By forming a management unit with a large contiguous acreage, i.e., a wildlife cooperative, management can be made more effective, populations better regulated, costs reduced, protection gained from trespass, fines levied for poaching, and vandalism reduced.
Whether fish are "wildlife" is still debated. Nevertheless, fish and mussels are fauna and they are primary foods of the terrestrial animals. It is important to see them as one with the communities of fauna that are often judged to be "the resource." The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission's atlas of freshwater mussels and endangered fish is highly relevant and it is now available. Some other states have wildlife information systems.
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Last revision January 17, 2000.