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Chapter 3

Wildlife are animals that have not been domesticated by humans. This does not mean that wild animals live without human interference. Humans control, manage, manipulate, use, and kill wildlife for various reasons. Humans tend to think of wild animals in terms of the threat they pose to people or the value they hold for them.

Some wildlife threaten human safety, health, property, and/or quality of life. This is true of large carnivores (such as lions, tigers, and alligators), poisonous snakes and spiders, disease-carrying animals, and animals that endanger moving vehicles. In addition, there are carnivores (such as coyotes and bobcats) that prey on livestock and pets, herbivores that eat crops and lawns, beavers that dam up streams, and wild animals that invade or damage human spaces. Many rodents, skunks, rabbits, deer, and birds are considered nuisance animals.

However, many wild animals, even dangerous ones, have value to humans. This value might be economic, educational, or emotional in nature. Valuable wildlife fall into the following categories:

  • Wild animals that produce products people want to eat, wear, or use. This category includes deer, buffalo, elk, wildfowl, fur-bearing creatures, many fish and marine mammals, and animals such as tigers and bears with bones and organs that are used in traditional medicines.
  • Wild animals that humans kill for sport through hunting or fishing. In the United States people primarily hunt native game, such as deer, bears, rabbits, squirrels, and waterfowl. Exotic (foreign) animals are imported and killed at some hunting ranches (called canned hunts because the hunters pay to participate and are guaranteed to kill the animals). African lions, giraffes, antelopes, gazelles, Cape buffaloes, Corsican sheep, and Angora goats are some of the most popular. Sport fish include a variety of freshwater and saltwater species.
  • Wild animals that can be manipulated to do labor or entertain people. For example, elephants are used as beasts of burden in many Asian countries. They also perform in circuses and shows, along with bears, primates, birds, lions, tigers, dolphins, seals, whales, and other trainable animals. Some wild animals even have military uses, particularly dolphins, whales, and sea lions.
  • Wild animals that humans enjoy watching, hearing, feeding, or photographing. This category is very diverse and ranges from songbirds in the backyard to whales in the open sea. (See Figure 3.1.) It includes a variety of animals that humans can encounter in the wild and at refuges, sanctuaries, zoos, parks, and entertainment venues.
  • Wild animals that are useful in scientific and medical research. These include primates and some strains of rats, mice, and rabbits.
  • Wild animals kept as pets. This includes a wide variety of species, some of which are dangerous to humans. Keeping wild animals as pets is highly controversial and, in many states, illegal.

Most animal rights advocates believe that wild animals should not be used at allnot for food, clothing, entertainment, companionship, or any other purpose. They consider wild animals not commodities but free beings with the right to live undisturbed in their natural habitats. Animal welfarists are concerned that wild animals are exploited and mistreated because of human greed and ignorance. They work to publicize the fate of animals in captivity and to save them from mistreatment.

Most people consider wildlife a valuable natural resource, such as water or coal. They may disagree about how wild animals should be used, but they generally agree that humans have the right to use them, especially if the supply is plentiful. Wild species threatened by extinction are a different matter, however, as many people rally to conserve them. Successful conservation ensures that the species will continue to thrive in the future.

Every aspect of wildlife-human interaction raises questions in the animal rights debate. For example:

  • The American bison was nearly extinct in the nineteenth century. Thanks to conservationists, the species was saved and is even thriving. By the year 2000, bison burgers were being sold at trendy restaurants. Is it acceptable to save an endangered species and then eat it?
  • The government allows people to kill deer to keep the population down. Otherwise, lack of food could lead to starvation among the deer population. Is hunting deer more humane than letting them starve?
  • Many people enjoy experiencing wildlife up close for its entertainment and educational value. Should wild animals be kept in captivity to satisfy this desire?

These are just some of the major questions in the animal rights debate.


Prehistoric humans constantly struggled with wildlife. Both sides were sometimes predators and sometimes prey, but humans quickly tipped the balance in their favor with two big advantages: superior intellect and weapons. As humans gained more control over nature, they began using wild animals not just as a food source but as a source of labor and entertainment. Elephants became beasts of burden. Mongooses and birds of prey were trained to be hunting assistants. Some lions, tigers, and bears were kept in cages to entertain or educate humans. Dangerous animals that could not be contained were often eliminated.

Eventually, governments declared their authority over wild animal populations. Some ancient rulers enacted game laws to allow species to multiply. The explorer Marco Polo described a law of the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan that prohibited the killing of deer, rabbits, and large waterfowl during certain months to allow the species time to replenish.

Other rulers restricted the hunting of the most desirable animals to the upper social classes. Under English law, wildlife was the property of royalty. Members of the lower classes were permitted to hunt only low-value animals such as rabbits. Big game were reserved for the upper classes. English royalty had exclusive hunting rights until 1215, when the Magna Carta was signed.

Wildlife in the United States

Problems with wildlife management plagued the first European colonists in North America. Historical records show that the colonists fought off animal predators, including wolves, coyotes, cougars, bears, and mountain lions. They also lost domesticated animals to wild predators. Livestock, particularly hogs, sometimes wandered away and lived in the wild. Their offspring were feral animals (animals born and living in the wild that are descendants of domesticated animals). The colonists killed wild and feral animals whenever they could because they were a threat to livestock and crops. The colonists found wolves to be particularly bothersome. Early governing bodies established wolf bounty acts that paid people for killing wolves. Virginia had a wolf bounty act as early as 1632. It paid colonists and Native Americans for every wolf head they presented.

By the early 1700s official hunting seasons for certain species were established in some colonies. Over the next century, state governments set up fish and game departments and enacted hunting restrictions, requiring licenses and setting limits on the number of some species that could be killed during each hunting season.

Colonization severely depleted the ranks of some native wild species through a combination of overhunting and disease. The introduction of livestock brought new animal diseases that were devastating to some native species. Passenger pigeons and heath hens died out altogether. Bison, elk, and beaver stocks were severely diminished, though they did not become extinct.


Late in the nineteenth century people began to become aware of the value of natural resources, such as land, water, and wildlife, and worked to conserve wilderness spaces and protect them from development. Some of the most important representatives of the conservation movement include:

  • John Muir (see Figure 3.2), who established the Sierra Club in 1892 and worked toward the creation of Yosemite National Park
  • President Theodore Roosevelt, who set aside millions of acres of land under federal government control for national refuges, forests, and parks
  • Gifford Pinchot, who was a firm believer in conservation and a key adviser to Theodore Roosevelt
  • Aldo Leopold, who wrote Game Management in 1933, the first known publication on the science of wildlife management
  • Ding Darling, who advocated the restoration of wetlands and waterfowl habitats and was the driving force behind many wildlife protection programs and laws

Early conservationists initiated programs that helped wild animals by preserving natural habitats, but they were not always motivated by the same concerns that drove people involved in the animal welfare movement. Many prominent conservationists were avid hunters. For example, President Roosevelt enjoyed hunting big game. Leopold also hunted and said that it gave him a deep appreciation and respect for wild animals. Many welfarists were (and are) opposed to hunting for sport. The ethical battle over hunting that began between conservationists and welfarists in the nineteenth century continues today.


In the twentieth century dozens of federal laws were enacted that regulated wildlife. Table 3.1 lists the most notable ones. The first federal wildlife law was the Lacey Act of 1900, which banned the transportation of illegally taken wildlife across state lines. It also established regulations regarding the importation of wildlife into the country. Many laws were designed to fund conservation efforts through hunting fees. For example, the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act of 1934 required people to purchase a stamp before they could hunt waterfowl. The Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937 added a special tax on guns and ammunition.

Major federal laws impacting wildlife, 190092
Major federal laws impacting wildlife Year enacted
Source: Created by Kim Masters Evans for Thomson Gale
Lacey Act 1900
Game and Bird Preserves Act 1905
Weeks-McLean Act 1912
National Park Service Act 1916
Migratory Bird Treaty Act 1918
Migratory Bird Conservation Act 1920s
Tariff Act (Enhanced Lacey Act) 1930
Animal Damage Control Act 1931
Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act 1934
Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act (Duck Stamp Act) 1934
Taylor Grazing Act 1934
Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (Pittman-Robertson Act) 1937
Bald Eagle Protection Act 1940
Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act (Dingell-Johnson Act) 1950
Whaling Convention Act 1950
Tuna Conventions Act 1950
Fisherman's Protective Act 1954
Fish and Wildlife Act 1956
Great Lakes Fishery Act 1956
Multiple Use Act 1960
Surplus Grain for Wildlife Act 1961
Refuge Recreation Act 1962
Wilderness Act 1964
Refuge Revenue Sharing Act 1964
Land and Water Conservation Fund Act 1965
Anadromous Fish Conservation Act 1965
National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act 1966
Endangered Species Preservation Act 1966
Fur Seal Act 1966
National Environmental Policy Act 1969
Endangered Species Conservation Act 1969
Federal Wild and Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act 1971
Marine Mammal Protection Act 1972
Endangered Species Act 1973
Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act 1980
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act 1980
National Aquaculture Act 1980
Salmon and Steelhead Conservation and Enhancement Act 1980
Atlantic Salmon Convention Act 1982
Northern Pacific Halibut Act 1982
Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act 1984
Pacific Salmon Treaty Act 1985
The North American Wetlands Conservation Act 1986
South Pacific Tuna Act 1988
The African Elephant Conservation Act 1988
Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act 1990
Non-Indigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act 1990
Wild Bird Conservation Act 1992
Alien Species Prevention and Enforcement Act 1992
Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act 1994
National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act 1997

By the early twenty-first century wildlife in the United States was extensively regulated. In "Digest of Federal Resource Laws" (2006,, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) lists 164 federal laws that have been passed dealing with the control, preservation, eradication, and management of wildlife. Some laws pertain directly to particular species, whereas others address preservation of habitat and use of federal lands.


Wildlife issues in the United States are overseen by various federal and state agencies. At the federal level, the USFWS is the primary agency. Originally called the U.S. Commission on Fish and Fisheries, the USFWS was formed in 1871 to examine problems with declining food-fish stocks and recommend remedies. In 1903 the agency was given oversight of the first national wildlife refuge, Pelican Island, a three-acre bird sanctuary in Sebastian, Florida.

In "Wild Places, Wild Things" (2006,, the USFWS states that it manages 95 million acres in 545 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System. It also manages migratory bird conservation, oversees thousands of wetlands and other management areas, and operates dozens of national fish hatcheries, fishery resources offices, and ecological services field stations. The USFWS administers and enforces many federal wildlife laws and issues import and export permits under those laws.

The USFWS works with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to monitor wildlife trade and stop illegal shipments of protected plants and animals. The USFWS also enforces the country's participation in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). This international agreement regulates the importing and exporting of thousands of species. Other federal agencies involved in controlling wild populations include the Wildlife Services (WS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Bureau of Reclamation, and the National Park Service. The WS is the primary federal agency in charge of controlling wildlife that can damage agriculture, property, and natural resources or threaten public health and safety. It operates the National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins, Colorado.


Historically, wildlife control efforts in the United States have focused on protecting human interests and preserving endangered species. Human interests include health, safety, property, and resourceslivestock, crops, trees, lawns, structures, water, food supplies, vehicles, pets, and so forth. Wild animals that threaten any of these are subject to removal or elimination. In the past, control was left up to private citizens, who could kill any wild animals they considered a threat. Today, most control efforts are led or managed by government agencies. For example, hunting requires a license and payment of fees. However, private citizens may legally kill some wildlife that are considered pests (such as rodents) in and around their homes or businesses.

Protecting Health and Safety

Violent confrontations between wild animals and people are relatively rare in contemporary times. Of greater concern is the danger from zoonotic diseasesdiseases that can be passed from animals to people. Zoonotic diseases associated with wild animals include rabies, West Nile virus, Lyme disease, bovine tuberculosis (a respiratory disease associated with buffalo, bison, and deer), chlamydiosis (a respiratory disease most commonly found in tropical birds, such as parrots), histoplasmosis (a lung disease transmitted through bird and bat droppings), salmonellosis (an intestinal illness transmitted through contaminated feces, particularly from infected reptiles), and granulocytic ehrlichiosis (a tick-borne disease similar to Lyme disease).

One of the most feared zoonotic diseases is rabies. Rabies killed an average of a hundred people annually in the early twentieth century, but a combination of control methods greatly reduced its threat. By the end of the century, only one or two people died each year from the disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducts rabies epidemiology (the study of the distribution and causes of disease in populations). In Rabies: Epidemiology (December 1, 2003,, the latest report available, the CDC reports that there were 7,437 confirmed cases of animal rabies in the United States in 2001. Wild animals, primarily raccoons, skunks, and bats, accounted for 93% of those cases. Figure 3.3 shows the areas of the country most associated with terrestrial (land-dwelling) wild animals that can carry rabies.

The number of rabies cases reported in wild animals greatly increased between the mid-1970s and 2001. This was because of an epidemic of rabies in raccoons in the mid-Atlantic states. This type of epidemic that affects many of the same species of animals is called an epizootic. According to the CDC, in Rabies: Prevention and Control (December 1, 2003,, the rabies epizootic in raccoons began in 1977 along the border between Virginia and West Virginia. It spread quickly to neighboring states and reached Canada in 1999. State and federal wildlife officials began using baits laden with oral rabies vaccine (ORV) in the early 1990s. More than 12.3 million ORV doses were distributed during 2006 alone, as shown in Table 3.2. Wildlife authorities hope to create a barrier to prevent the epizootic from spreading westward.

Besides diseases, humans face dangers posed by collisions between moving vehicles and wild animals and birds. In Wildlife Services Program: Information on Activities to Manage Wildlife Damage (November 2001,, the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO; now the Government Accountability Office), reports that more than one million collisions between deer and automobiles occur each year, injuring approximately twenty-nine thousand people and killing two hundred. Bradley F. Blackwell and Glen E. Bernhardt state in "Efficacy of Aircraft Landing Lights in Stimulating Avoidance Behavior in Birds" (Journal of Wildlife Management, July 2004) that 46,514 collisions between wildlife and civil aircraft were reported to the Federal Aviation Administration from 1990 through 2002. These collisions had associated costs of approximately $489 million annually. Birds were involved in 97% of the collisions. Although multiple species of birds can be involved in a single incident, aircraft collisions were most commonly associated with waterfowl and raptors. Wildlife and aircraft collisions caused 140 human deaths between 1990 and 2000.

Protecting Property and Pleasure

According to the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), in Managing Wildlife Conflicts: The Mission of the APHIS Wildlife Services Program (October 2005,, wildlife causes $600 million to $1.6 billion worth of damage annually to agriculture. Each year, farmers and ranchers lose thousands of calves and lambs, worth more than $71 million, to wild predators such as coyotes, wolves, and mountain lions. The GAO estimates in Wildlife Services Program that 273,000 sheep and lambs, 147,000 cattle and calves, and 61,000 goats and kids were lost to wild predators in 1999. Coyotes are blamed for most of the losses. Wild predators are primarily a problem in western states where ranchers graze their livestock on open rangelands. Furthermore, APHIS reports in Wildlife Services: The Facts about Wildlife Damage Management (2004, that wildlife damages more than $50 million worth of corn, sunflowers, and blueberries annually.

The GAO Wildlife Services Program report involved an extensive investigation into wildlife damage across the country. Table 3.3 lists wildlife problems reported by each state. Birds, especially Canada geese, are a problem in thirty-nine states. Coyotes are mentioned as an issue in twenty states. Beavers are considered a problem in eighteen states.

Federal and state wildlife agencies use a variety of direct control methods to deal with so-called nuisance wildlife, including relocation, poisons, sharpshooters, contraceptives, and repellents. The agency dispersed nearly 18.9 million animals during fiscal year (FY) 2004, primarily by chemical methods (,%20FY%202004.pdf). More than 2.7 million animals were killed by the WS during FY 2004. (See Table 3.4.) Birds made up the vast majority of the animals eliminated, accounting for nearly 92% of the total. Among terrestrial species the largest numbers of animals killed by the WS were coyotes (75,674), beavers (32,085), and feral (wild) hogs (11,484). Nearly 34,000 northern pikeminnow, a fish species, were also eliminated.

Government agencies also indirectly control wildlife by issuing hunting permits and allowing recreational hunts to take place. Lethal control methods employed by wildlife agencies are described in government publications as "depopulating" or "harvesting" surplus animals.

Controversies over Government Control of Wildlife

Animal rights and welfare groups maintain that government wildlife agencies rely far too much on killing as a control method. The WS denies this. According to the GAO Wildlife Services Program report, approximately 75% of the program's budget in FY 2000 was devoted to research and development of nonlethal control methods. One example is called the Electronic Guard. This device uses sirens and strobe lights to frighten coyotes away from sheep and lamb herds. The GAO notes that the WS uses lethal methods when nonlethal methods have proven ineffective and that WS "officials strive to select the method that will kill the bird or mammal quickly, effectively, and humanely."

Oral rabies vaccine distribution, by state, number of baits, and areas covered, 2006
State Baits Area (km2)
Source: "Oral Rabies Vaccine (ORV): 2006 Summary by State," in Wildlife Services National Rabies Management Program: 2006 U.S. ORV Distribution Summary, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, 2006, (accessed December 29, 2006)
Alabama 1,063,350 16,273.2
Arizona 3,626 100.6
Florida 903,264 8,413.6
Georgia 96,528 1,448.8
Maine 49,680 747.3
Maryland 99,645 765.8
Massachusetts 101,893 776.4
New Hampshire 29,473 529.7
New Jersey 45,600 480.3
New York 1,474,067 17,907.6
North Carolina 184,932 2,888.5
Ohio 1,110,046 15,148.4
Pennsylvania 1,359,812 20,580.0
Tennessee 770,618 11,508.8
Texas 2,807,763 91,313.3
Vermont 383,179 7,182.8
Virginia 320,617 5,024.3
West Virginia 1,503,365 22,533.9
   Total 12,307,458 223,623.3

Critics say that overuse of lethal methods actually aggravates problems because predators naturally respond by producing more offspring. The WS counters this argument in Wildlife Services: The Facts about Wildlife Damage Management, in which it cites Robert Crabtree's study, Carnivores in Ecosystems: The Yellowstone Experience (1999), which finds that coyote litter size "appears largely unaffected by levels of human exploitation." Furthermore, the WS states that habitat conditions and abundance of food are the determining factors in predator litter sizes.


Wild horse and burro populations on public lands are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). As Table 3.5 shows, in FY 2006 there were more than thirty-one thousand of these animals scattered across the western states. They were maintained on approximately eighty-eight million acres. Table 3.5 also lists the appropriate management level (AML) established by the federal government as the maximum number of wild horses or burros appropriate for a particular area. In 2006 populations in Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming exceeded their AMLs.

The BLM states in "BLM Strategy to Manage Horses Upheld in Federal Court" (September 24, 2004, that its policy is to remove wild horses and burros from overpopulated areas to "prevent damage to the rangelands and threats to watershed health." The animals are gathered and held in holding pens. Some are adopted out to private citizens or organizations.

In 2000 the groups Fund for Animals (FFA) and Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit against the BLM challenging the agency's wild horse management policy. The lawsuit claimed that the policy violated the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. In September 2004 a federal court dismissed the lawsuit, saying that the groups had no standing in the case.

In December 2004 Congress passed the FY 2005 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, which included an amendment allowing some "excess" wild horses and burros to be sold at auction "without limitation." The bill applies to animals greater than ten years old and those that have unsuccessfully been offered for adoption at least three times. The amendment was added by then Montana senator Conrad Burns, who argued that the animals damage valuable grazing land and that maintaining them in holding pens is too expensive for the federal government. Critics explain that the phrase "without limitation" means that the animals can be slaughtered for horse meat. The amendment was condemned by animal protection groups and even drew criticism from mainline media sources not ordinarily sympathetic to animal causes. For example, the editorial "Save the Wild Horses" (Washington Times, December 6, 2004) was harshly critical of the amendment. It argued that wild horses have symbolic prestige in U.S. history and that the federal government should not allow their slaughter as a population control method. The editorial questioned the validity of claims that wild horses damage grazing land, citing a federal government study that found that overgrazing of cattle is a much more serious threat.

According to a BLM fact sheet (January 3, 2007,, there were approximately eighty-four hundred wild horses eligible for sale at the time of passage of the Burns amendment. In March 2005 the BLM conducted the first of several sales of wild horses under the new law. The following month the agency learned that some horses sold to a private individual had been resold to a horse slaughter plant. A BLM spokesperson noted that the agency was "extremely disappointed" but had no control over what happened to the horses once they were sold. Animal protection groups were outraged by the news.

Examples of and concerns connected with resources damaged by wildlife, by state and type of injurious wildlife, 2001
State Injurious wildlife Resource damaged (annual damage estimate, if available) Emerging concerns
Alabama Fish-eating birds (e.g., cormorants, pelicans, herons, egrets) Catfish ($4 million) Wildlife diseases pose greater threats to humans, livestock, and pets; populations of fish-eating birds continue to increase; and diminished sport trapping is adding to the increase in beaver populations.
Beavers Timber ($19 million), transportation infrastructure
Alaska Arctic foxes Aleutian Canada goose (threatened), nesting seabirds Increased air travel throughout the state, coupled with immense populations of migratory birds and other wildlife, has created an urgent need for state and federal management of wildlife threats. Also, farmers and ranchers need assistance with damage from birds and predators.
Arizona Coyotes, black bears, mountain lions Livestock Increased human populations and increased recreational use of public lands emphasize the need to deal with risks of wildlife disease transmission.
Blackbirds Dairy cattle, feedlot cattle (disease risk from contaminated feed and water)
Arkansas Blackbirds Rice crops ($3.5 million) The growing rice and aqua cultures industries require additional protection from the increasing populations of fish-eating birds.
Fish-eating birds Catfish ($2.3 million)
California Coyotes, black bears, mountain lions Livestock (nearly $2 million) Increased airline traffic and population growth of many bird species has created a greater need for wildlife control at airports; the recent surge in the number of direct attacks on humans creates an increased need to protect humans from large predators such as coyotes, black bears, and mountain lions.
Birds, rodents Row crops, fruit and nut crops, vineyards
Feral cats, red foxes, raccoons, coyotes, striped skunks, raptors Threatened or endangered species (e.g., California red-legged frog, salt marsh harvest mouse, Sierra Nevada big horn sheep, Monterey Bay western snowy plover)
Colorado Coyotes Sheep and lambs ($1.5 million), black-footed ferrets (endangered) Human population growth, especially in rural and semi-rural areas, creates an increased potential for human-wildlife conflicts.
Connecticut Starlings, blackbirds Dairy cattle (salmonella risk from contaminated feed and water) Preventing wildlife-borne diseases from affecting humans and livestock has become a growing concern with the recent out breaks of rabies, West Nile virus, salmonella, and E. coli; increased air travel and growing bird populations also call for increased wildlife control at airports.
Canada geese, blackbirds, mute swans Vegetable crops, cranberries
Birds, bats, squirrels, monk parakeets, ospreys Buildings, landscaping, utilities
Delaware Snow geese Coastal salt marsh habitat West Nile virus is a major health concern. In fiscal year 2000, Delaware reported that four horses tested positive for the virus. Growth in air travel, coupled with growth in deer and bird populations, has created a greater need for wildlife control at airports.
Canada geese Grain crops, golf courses ($75,000)
Florida Raccoons, red foxes, coyotes, feral hogs, ghost crabs, armadillos Threatened or endangered sea turtles (e.g., leatherback, hawksbill, loggerhead turtles) Wildlife continue to threaten the safety of air travelers at many airports, but resource constraints have prevented Wildlife Services from resolving the hazards; livestock producers suffer losses from coyote and vulture predation, and direct assistance from Wildlife Services, rather than advice, would help reduce these losses.
Foxes, coyotes, black rats, skunks, raccoons, snakes, armadillos, dogs Endangered beach mice (e.g., Perdido Key, Anastasia Island, Choctawhatchee beach mice)
Red foxes, rats, coyotes, raccoons, feral cats Threatened or endangered birds (e.g., roseate tern, least tern, Puerto Rican parrot)
Beavers Flooded timber lands, croplands, roadways ($620,000)
Georgia Armadillos, raccoons, coyotes Ground-nesting birds (e.g., bobwhite quail) Increased habitat loss, human population growth, and the adaptability of many wildlife species to human environments increase the need for professional resolution of wildlife problems. Of concern are deer, geese, beavers, vultures, cormorants, pigeons, feral hogs, and raccoons.
Beavers Landscapes, pastures, timber, sanitation lines, culverts, highways, wells ($152,000)
Resident Canada geese, while-tailed deer Crops, property, neighborhood landscapes and gardens
Hawaii Feral goats, sheep, pigs, deer Endangered waterbirds, plants The state is concerned about the time and expense involved in complying with the National Environmental Policy Act (conducting environmental analyses of Wildlife Services' actions performed for nonfederal cooperators), and the associated administrative requirements.
Tree frogs Horticulture, parrots, Axis deer
Rats Agricultural products, native plants, seabirds, turtles
Examples of and concerns connected with resources damaged by wildlife, by state and type of injurious wildlife, 2001 [continued]
State Injurious wildlife Resource damaged (annual damage estimate, if available) Emerging concerns
Idaho Coyotes, black bears, mountain lions, wolves, red foxes Sheep, lambs ($1.5 million) Efforts to control crop damage by the sandhill crane have been limited by the lack of resources. Populations of ravens and red foxes have increased, to the detriment of the sage grouse.
Ravens, coyotes, badgers, red foxes Sage grouse, endangered northern Idaho ground squirrels
Illinois Canada geese, white-tailed deer Private and municipal property Bird predation at fish production facilitiesan emerging agricultural industry in Illinoisis a concern, as is the transmission of wildlife-borne diseases such as West Nile virus.
European starlings Private and industrial property, risk of disease (histoplasmosis)
Indiana Canada geese Private and industrial property ($169,000 in property damage reported in fiscal year 2000) Over 12,000 people used Indiana's toll-free wildlife conflicts hotline during its first 2 years of service, preventing an estimated $100,000 in wildlife damage; now an additional person is needed to respond to calls.
Starlings Property damage (e.g., buildings and equipment), risk of disease (histoplasmosis)
Iowa Coyotes Sheep, cattle, hogs ($20,000 in confirmed losses to coyotes) Requests for assistance continue to increase, especially in regard to livestock predators (especially coyotes) and beavers.
Beavers Roads, crops, bridges
Kansas Blackbirds (grackles, starlings, cowbirds) Livestock feed (more than $660,000 in damage at three feedlots during a recent winter) Wildlife Services' success in addressing blackbird problems at feedlots has fueled demand for similar services statewide.
Kentucky Starlings, Canada geese Agriculture, residential and industrial property, aquaculture, golf courses, parks, utility structures Increased urbanization and expansion into formerly rural areas, coupled with escalating wildlife populations, have led to a rise in wildlife-human conflicts.
Louisiana Blackbirds, cowbirds, egrets, cormorants, white pelicans, herons Sprouting rice ($5 million to $10 million a year in damage), strawberries, pecans, crawfish, catfish Increased damage by birds is becoming more difficult to control, despite the more than $17 million spent annually by aquaculture facilities throughout the state. Beavers are another source of increasing wildlife damage in the state.
Beavers Threatened Louisiana pearlshell (a mussel), timber, roadways, bridges, public utilities. Nearly $5 million in beaver-caused losses was reported between 1998 and 2000.
Maine Birds, deer, moose, raccoons, skunks, black bears Blueberries, strawberries, vegetable crops, beehives, campsites, summer homes, fences Increasing predation from a rising cormorant population is harming the commercial, pen-raised Atlantic salmon industry and is thought to be the primary cause of the dwindling wild Atlantic salmon population.
Beavers Commercial timberlands, municipal roads, highways
Maryland Canada geese, vultures Crops, waterfront properties The state has an increased need to protect humans, their pets, and livestock from wildlife-borne diseases. Rabies and West Nile virus are two major health concerns on the East Coast.
Massachusetts Canada geese, blackbirds Cranberries, vegetables, dairy feed Preventing the spread of wildlife-borne diseases to humans and livestock is a growing concern, given the recent outbreaks of rabies, West Nile virus, salmonella, giardia, and E. coli.
Eider ducks, swans, cormorants, gulls Trout hatcheries, shellfish
Michigan Starlings Dairies, feedlots Wolf populations will likely increase and expand from the Upper to the Lower Peninsula, causing increased demand for prompt and professional response in wolf management services. Also, demand for help in reducing damage by congregating starlings has grown significantly.
Gray wolves (endangered) Livestock
Deer Bovine tuberculosis in cattle (projected impact to the state's producers is $121 million over 10 years)
Minnesota Gray wolves Cattle, horses, sheep, poultry, dogs As the wolf population continues to expand, the need for Wildlife Services' professional assistance is expected to increase. Nuisance bear complaints are also increasing.
Beavers Private property, roads, timber, fish habitat
Mississippi Double-crested cormorants, American white pelicans Aquaculture (about $5 million) Feral hogs are causing more crop damage and posing a disease threat (pseudorabies) for the domestic hog industry. Canada geese and black bears are becoming a growing concern for property owners.
Beavers Roads, bridges, drainage structures, agricultural fields, private property, timber (several million dollars a year in damage)
Black bears Beehives, crops, private property
Missouri Beavers, muskrats Crops, roads, levees The state's resident Canada goose population has quadrupled since 1993, causing increased damage; the feral hog population is also increasing, and the state needs Wildlife Services' help with this problem.
Blackbirds, herons Rice crops, aquaculture
Canada geese Crops, lawns, golf courses (more than $122,000 in turf and crop damage in fiscal year 2000)
Montana Grizzly bears, Rocky Mountain gray wolves (threatened or endangered) Livestock (predators caused a $1.1 million loss to state's sheep industry in 2000) With the successful reintroduction and recovery of Rocky Mountain gray wolves in nearby states, Montana Wildlife Services expects a growing demand for its expertise in handling wolf-related livestock predation issues.
Examples of and concerns connected with resources damaged by wildlife, by state and type of injurious wildlife, 2001 [continued]
State Injurious wildlife Resource damaged (annual damage estimate, if available) Emerging concerns
Nebraska Coyotes, foxes, mountain lions, bobcats Livestock Areas requiring increased attention include wildlife management at airports, livestock predation, and public protection from wildlife-borne diseases. Increased public awareness of Wildlife Services' professional role in these issues has increased the demand for its services.
Prairie dogs Rangeland
Blackbirds Feedlots
Nevada Rodents Public health risk of sylvatic plague (wild form of bubonic plague) Aviation safety is a growing concern. Population growth and city development around Nevada's major airports has created an ideal habitat for migratory birds such as Canada geese, mallard ducks, and American coots.
Coyotes, mountain lions Livestock; humans and pets in urban areas
New Hampshire Black bears Apiaries, row crops, livestock Controlling the spread of West Nile virus is an emerging concern, along with rabies, Lyme disease, salmonella, and chronic wasting disease. Also, the 10-year trend of increasing conflicts associated with bears and bird feeding activities needs to be addressed.
Deer Apples, fruit crops, ornamental shrubbery
Woodchucks Earthen dams and levees, wild lupine (essential to the endangered Karner blue butterfly)
Gulls Roseate and common tern recolonization efforts
New Jersey Canada geese Human health effects of goose feces, human safety threats from aggressive geese, crops, turf The state's large population of resident Canada geese will pose increasing challenges for the protection of human health and safety, as well as property, at schools, hospitals, airports, and urban and suburban areas. The spread of West Nile virus is another concern.
Deer, blackbirds Crops, fruit trees, vegetables
Red foxes, raccoons, opossums Threatened and endangered shorebirds (e.g., piping plovers, least terns, black skimmers)
New Mexico Coyotes, cougars, bobcats, black bears Livestock (losses in excess of $1.6 million in 1999) Coyotes are becoming an increasing problem in urban and suburban areas, killing pets and other domestic animals and posing safety risks to humans. Wildlife Services' assistance will be needed to resolve conflicts between humans and the black-tailed prairie dog, a candidate threatened species.
Prairie dogs, pocket gophers, ground squirrels Agricultural crops, pasture land, turf, human health and safety (nearly $500,000 in rodent damage in fiscal year 2000)
Sandhill cranes, snow geese Crops (e.g., alfalfa, chile, wheat)
New York Cormorants, gulls Catfish, bait fish, crawfish, sport fish Bat and raccoon rabies remain a health concern, and urban winter crow roosts are emerging as a unique problem to city residents, resulting in conflicts over droppings, noise, odor, and fear associated with zoonotic disease.
Canada geese Property, crops
North Carolina Beavers Timber, crops, roads, drainage systems, landscapes. In fiscal year 2000, Wildlife Services prevented about $8.5 million in damage to such resources: nearly $9 saved for every $1 spent. Threats to public safety, not only by wildlife at airports, but also by the rapidly growing beaver population, must be addressed. A rabid beaver's recent attack on a human has increased public awareness of this issue.
North Dakota/South Dakota Coyotes, foxes Cattle, sheep, poultry More work at airports is needed, and the threat of rabies transferring from skunks to humans or domestic animals continues to be a concern.
Blackbirds Sunflowers and other grain crops (over $5 million in losses annually in the upper Great Plains), feedlots
Canada geese and other waterfowl Grain crops (damage increased by 80 percent in 2000, resulting in $162,000 in losses)
Ohio Coyotes, vultures Cattle, sheep, poultry Increasing populations of gulls, vultures, and starlings are causing significant human health and safety issues and crop and property damage.
Raccoons Human health and safety
Rooftop nesting gulls Property
Blackbirds, Canada geese Crops, property
Oklahoma Beavers Dams, timber, crops, roads, private property Feral hogs cause many problems (livestock predation, crop destruction); Canada geese are growing in number and are damaging crops.
Coyotes Cattle, sheep, goats, poultry
Canada geese Crops (especially winter wheat)
Oregon Canada geese Turf grass seed, other crops Successful wolf reintroduction in Idaho means future wolf coflicts with livestock in Oregon. Wolves will hamper present predator control efforts because control tools and methods will be restricted around wolves.
Cougars Human safety (Wildlife Services addressed 386 cougar complaints in 2000; 118 involved threats to humans)
Black bears, beavers Timber
Examples of and concerns connected with resources damaged by wildlife, by state and type of injurious wildlife, 2001 [continued]
State Injurious wildlife Resource damaged (annual damage estimate, if available) Emerging concerns
Pennsylvania Deer Human safety (automobile collisions) The state's large population of resident Canada geese will pose increasing challenges over time, as will increasing populations of deer, vultures, and gulls. Emerging public health issues (e.g., West Nile virus) will also be a challenge.
Canada geese Landscape, crops (program annually assists over 300 residents with goose-related problems)
Starlings Livestock facilities
Rhode Island Canada geese, gulls, crows, turkey vultures Property, turf, vegetable crops The needs of some citizens are currently unmet. Increasingly, the program is able to respond to requests for assistance only from entities that can fully fund it. Preventing wildlife-borne diseases is a growing concern.
Mute swans Pond water quality
Monk parakeets, ospreys Landscaping, utilities
South Carolina Beavers Timber, crops, roads, levees, dams The demand for beaver management has overwhelmed the program, yet some counties cannot afford to share the costs. At the same time, the vulture population and related complaints have increased.
White-tailed deer Landscaping, human safety (automobile collisions), human health (tick-borne diseases)
Tennessee Canada geese Turf (at golf courses, parks, etc.) The growing number and variety of wildlife-human conflicts pose a challenge to the program, especially in terms of wildlife control at airports and urban damage by large birds.
Beavers Roads, bridges, timber, wildlife management areas
Vultures Municipal utility structures, residential property
Texas Coyotes, foxes Human health (rabies) The feral hog population in the state exceeds 1 million. Hogs damage many crops (e.g., corn, rice, peanuts, hay), and they prey on lambs, kids, fawns, and ground nesting birds. Also, damage by migratory birds (e.g., cattle egrets, vultures, cormorants) has increased, taxing the program's response abilities.
Coyotes Sheep and goats
Beavers Dams, dikes, railroad track beds, timber, roads, pastures, crops
Blackbirds Citrus crops, rice, feedlot operations
Feral hogs Agricultural crops, livestock
Utah Coyotes, mountain lions, black bears Sheep and lambs (nearly $2 million in losses in 1999, even with controls in place), endangered black-footed ferrets, sage grouse, mule deer fawns Demands for wildlife damage management are increasing, yet the program already has more requests than it can address. Protection of native wildlife continues to be of importance.
Skunks, raccoons, feral and urban waterfowl, pigeons Human health and safety (threat of rabies, raccoon roundworm, salmonella, plague)
Vermont Raccoons Human health (rabies), threatened Eastern spiney softshell turtle Wildlife diseases like West Nile virus, Lyme disease, salmonella, and chronic wasting syndrome continue to emerge and need to be addressed.
Starlings Cattle feed at dairies
Virginia Coyotes, black vultures Livestock Challenges include finding a way to provide damage management services to low- and middle-income people and protecting Virginia's rare natural resources (e.g., the threatened piping plover and Wilson's plover).
Beavers Roads, railroads
Canada geese, crows, vultures, starlings, muskrats Urban and suburban property, water quality, human health and safety. (Canada geese are involved in 26 percent of all requests for program assistance in Virginia.)
Washington Northern pikeminnows, gulls Threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead Increasing problems are caused by urban Canada geese and by predators (damage to livestock, agriculture, and forestry resources), but program resources are already strained.
Starlings, feral pigeons, Canada geese, gulls Bridges, buildings (bird feces are corrosive to paint and metal), fruit crops, public and private property, human health (over $6 million a year in damage to the fruit industry)
Coyotes Livestock, endangered Columbian white-tailed deer, pygmy rabbits
West Virginia Coyotes, vultures Sheep, cattle, goats With its limited resources, the program concentrates on the highest priorities (human health and safety). As a result, though, program staff cannot make much-needed on-site evaluations of wildlife damage to property; rather, they make recommendations based on telephone interviews. Also, problems caused by starlings and roosting birds need attention.
Raccoons Human health (rabies)
Muskrats, beavers Levees and dams
Examples of and concerns connected with resources damaged by wildlife, by state and type of injurious wildlife, 2001 [continued]
State Injurious wildlife Resource damaged (annual damage estimate, if available) Emerging concerns
Source: "Table 6. Examples of Resources Damaged by Injurious Wildlife, and Related Emerging Concerns, by State," in Wildlife Services Program: Information on Activities to Manage Wildlife Damage, U.S. General Accounting Office, November 2001
Wisconsin Deer Crops (over $1 million a year in damage) The endangered gray wolf population has grown from 34 wolves in 1990 to about 250 in 2000, and the wolf's recovery is considered a success. But problems, such as depredation on livestock and pets, have come with the wolf's recovery. Also problematic is the damage done by the burgeoning population of resident Canada geese, which now numbers over 70,000.
Black bears Crops, property, human safety
Beavers Trout streams
Gray wolves Livestock, pets
Canada geese Municipal and private property
Wyoming Coyotes, black bears, red foxes, mountain lions, grizzly bears, wolves Livestock (losses of over $5.6 million to predators in 2000) As wolf and grizzly bear populations expand, new or different control methods will be needed to prevent unnecessary conflicts with them. Also, skunk rabies seems to be spreading westward across the state, and a program is needed to contain it.
Skunks Human health (rabies risk)
Coyotes Black-footed ferrets
Guam Brown tree snakes Power transmission lines, poultry and small animals, endangered species (e.g., Vanikoro swiftlets, Mariana crows, Guam fruit bats, Guam rails, Micronesian kingfishers), human health and safety The magnitude and complexity of the work to control the brown tree snake pose significant challenges, and the administrative burden is increasing.
U.S. Virgin Islands Black rats Endangered sea turtles, migratory birds, native vegetation Invasive species' impacts on native plants and animals is a major and growing problem.
Roosting birds Human health concerns

In May 2005 the Ford Motor Company established the Save the Mustangs fund to build public awareness and raise contributions to save wild horses. In January 2007 Ford reported that more than $200,000 had been raised for the fund and that the funds would be distributed to carefully screened horse rescue groups that agree to purchase the horses (

The BLM fact sheet reports that nearly twenty-two hundred wild horses and burros had been sold through the Burns amendment program as of December 2006. The agency denies that it sells the animals to slaughterhouses or "killer buyers." The BLM spent $36.8 million during FY 2006 on the wild horse and burro program. More than half of the money ($19.6 million) was devoted to short- and long-term holding facilities for the animals.

Protecting Endangered and Threatened Species

The Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973. It built on protection measures first laid out in the 1966 Endangered Species Preservation Act. The purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to conserve the ecosystems on which endangered and threatened species depend and to conserve and recover listed species. An endangered species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. A threatened species is considered likely to become endangered in the future. Some species are listed as endangered in some areas of the country and only threatened in other areas.

As of January 1, 2007, there were 567 native species on the federal list of endangered and threatened animals412 endangered species and 155 threatened species. (See Table 3.6.) Another 565 foreign animal species were listed as endangered or threatened. Animals are placed on the list based on their biological status and the threats to their existence. Some species are put on the list because they closely resemble endangered or threatened species.

The USFWS and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) share responsibility for administering the Endangered Species Act. They work in partnership with state agencies to enforce the act and develop and maintain conservation programs. The USFWS operates fifty-nine national wildlife refuges around the country that were established specifically to protect endangered species. (See Table 3.7.)

The Endangered Species Act prohibits any person from taking a listed species. Taking includes actions that "harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect" listed species or attempt to do so. Harm is defined as an action that kills or injures the animal and includes actions that significantly modify or degrade habitats or significantly impair essential behavior patterns such as breeding, feeding, and sheltering. These measures are designed to allow endangered and threatened species to repopulate. However, once a species does repopulate, it can be delisted (removed from the list of endangered species), and the taking prohibition no longer applies. Table 3.8 shows the delisting status for specific wildlife species that have been delisted or are expected to be delisted by 2015.

Animals killed by Wildlife Services, by species, 2004
Source: Adapted from "PDR 10. Number of Animals Killed and Methods Used by the WS Program, FY 2004," in Wildlife Services' 2004 Annual Tables, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, August 31, 2005,,%20FY%202004.pdf (accessed December 28, 2006)
Alligators, American 11
Armadillos, nine-banded 317
Badgers 445
Bats (all) 9
Bears, black 397
Beavers 32,085
Bobcats 1,918
Cats, feral/free ranging 1,099
Cattle, feral 2
Chipmunks (all) 6
Coyotes 75,674
Deer 2,923
Dogs, feral/free ranging & hybrids 519
Elk, wapiti (wild) 1
Fish (other) 54
Foxes 3,907
Frogs/toads 147
Goats, feral 26
Gophers, pocket (all) 201
Hares 1,405
Hogs, feral 11,484
Lions, mountain (cougar) 359
Lizards, monitor 7
Mammals, exotic 164
Marmots/woodchucks (all) 3,296
Mice/rats 4,987
Minks 12
Moles (all) 6
Mongooses, Indian 1,329
Moose 1
Muskrats 1,722
Nutrias 6,335
Opossums, Virginia 3,236
Otters, river 496
Peccaries, collared (javelina) 140
Pikeminnow, northern 33,972
Porcupines 192
Prairie dogs 2,190
Pronghorn (antelope) 2
Rabbits 274
Raccoons 10,518
Reptiles, exotic 205
Sheep, feral/free-ranging/exotic 16
Skunks 6,791
Snakes 9,797
Squirrels 5,574
Turtles (all) 648
Voles (all) 135
Weasels (all) 9
Wolves 191
    Sub total 225,234
Birds & poultry
Starlings, European 2,320,086
Pigeons, feral (rock dove) 59,784
Dove, zebra 15,205
Cowbirds, brown-headed 14,473
Other 132,370
    Sub total 2,541,918
    Grand total 2,767,152

In addition, endangered species that pose a threat to humans and livestock can be killed under certain circumstances. In 1967 gray and red wolves were listed as endangered, because centuries of extermination had severely depleted their numbers. (See Figure 3.4.) In the 1990s wolves were reintroduced to certain areas of the western United States and designated "nonessential experimental populations." This designation allowed government agencies and private citizens flexibility in controlling wolf populations. For example, wolves could be killed, moved, or harassed to protect domestic livestock. By 2002 wolf populations in some western states had reached the government's recovery goals. However, before the species can be delisted the USFWS requires that state and tribal governments have approved wolf management plans in place that will protect both the wolves and human interests.


Protecting endangered and threatened species becomes extremely controversial when it threatens human economic interests. One example is the northern spotted owl. Its primary habitat is among old-growth trees (greater than one hundred years old) in the coniferous forests of the Pacific Northwest, which were heavily logged in the 1960s. John Weier reports in "Spotting the Spotted Owl" (June 15, 1999, that in 1972 researchers at Oregon State University estimated that 85% to 90% of the owl's suitable habitat had already been eliminated. The researchers assessed the future harvest plans of major logging companies and learned that most of the remaining old-growth trees in these forests were also to be cut down. The resulting publicity caused a major showdown between environmental conservation groups and the logging industry.

Environmental activists chained themselves to trees and damaged logging equipment to protest removal of the old-growth forests. Protest marches captured national headlines. There was tremendous political pressure to protect the owl's remaining habitat, particularly because approximately half of it was on federal lands. Since the mid-1980s the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has tried to develop plans for managing federal forests in the Pacific Northwest that balance timber harvesting with habitat protection. Neither side has been happy with the proposals. The timber industry complains that protecting owls puts loggers out of work. Environmentalists believe that all old-growth forests can be saved. In 1990 the USFWS added the northern spotted owl to the federal list of threatened species. The decision followed years of study and lawsuits filed by environmental groups and representatives of the timber industry.

Wild horse and burro herd statistics, fiscal year 2006
Herd area Herd management area Acres transferred from BLM Populations Total AML
BLM acres Other acres Total acres BLM acres Other acres Total acres Horses Burros Total
Herd area statistics are a reflection of each state's current population information as of February 28, 2006.
Populations do not reflect any changes after February 2006 (i.e. foal crops or gathers).
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) policy is to establish appropriate management level (AML) as a range with upper and lower levels; the numbers displayed represents the upper limit.
Acres have been calculated using current digitized (GIS) maps.
Acreage transferred from BLM to another agency is not deducted from the herd area.
Source: "Herd Area Statistics, 2006," in Wild Horse and Burro Herd Area StatisticsFY 2006, U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, 2006, (accessed November 28, 2006)
AZ 2,019,932 1,617,998 3,637,930 1,756,086 1,327,777 3,083,863 0 230 1,542 1,772 1,570
CA 5,112,778 1,851,661 6,964,439 1,946,590 471,855 2,418,445 1,477,076 3,166 889 4,055 2,199
CO 658,119 76,572 734,691 366,098 38,656 404,754 0 884 0 884 812
ID 428,421 49,235 477,656 377,907 40,287 418,194 0 594 0 594 617
MT 104,361 119,242 223,603 28,282 8,865 37,147 0 159 0 159 105
NV 19,593,299 3,088,027 22,681,326 15,778,284 1,695,925 17,474,209 444,112 13,384 834 14,218 13,535
NM 88,653 37,874 126,527 24,505 4,107 28,612 0 62 0 62 83
OR 3,559,935 785,250 4,345,185 2,703,409 259,726 2,963,135 0 2,113 15 2,128 2,715
UT 3,236,178 689,176 3,925,354 2,462,726 374,614 2,837,340 79,120 2,545 169 2,714 2,151
WY 7,297,778 3,030,010 10,327,788 3,638,330 1,137,121 4,775,451 0 4,615 0 4,615 3,725
  Total 42,099,454 11,345,045 53,444,499 29,082,217 5,358,933 34,441,150 2,000,308 27,752 3,449 31,201 27,512
Endangered and threatened species as of January 1, 2007
Group United States Foreign Total listings (US and foreign)
Endangered Threatened Total listings Endangered Threatened Total listings
Notes: 34 animal species (17 in the U.S. and 17 foreign) are counted more than once in the above table, primarily because these animals have distinct population segments (each with its own individual listing status). One listing represents an entire genus or family that includes several different species.
Source: Adapted from "Summary of Listed Species, Species and Recovery Plans as of 01/01/2007," in Threatened and Endangered Species System (TESS) Summary of Listed Species as of 01/01/07, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, January 1, 2007, (accessed January 1, 2007)
Mammals 69 13 82 255 20 275 357
Birds 76 15 91 175 6 181 272
Reptiles 14 23 37 65 16 81 118
Amphibians 13 10 23 8 1 9 32
Fishes 75 62 137 11 1 2 149
Clams 62 8 70 2 0 2 72
Snails 25 11 36 1 0 1 37
Insects 47 10 57 4 0 4 61
Arachnids 12 0 12 0 0 0 12
Crustaceans 19 3 22 0 0 0 22
    Total 412 155 567 521 44 565 1,132

The legal battles continued throughout the 1990s. In 1994 the administration of President Bill Clinton formulated the Northwest Forest Plan as an attempt to satisfy both sides. The plan requires completion of biological surveys on dozens of plants and animals before logging is allowed on federal timberlands in the Northwest. It also includes other measures designed to protect owl habitat. Critics contend that this protection has a high human cost. According to Hal Bernton, in "Forest Service Halts Timber Sales in Northwest Spotted Owl Regions" (Oregonian, August 12, 1999), more than ten thousand jobs in the forest products industry were lost in Oregon and Washington between 1991 and 1998, as mills dependent on federal timber closed down.

In 2002 the Western Council of Industrial Workers and the American Resource Forest Council sued the USFWS over its spotted owl management policy. The groups claimed that the agency had undercounted the number of spotted owls in old-growth forests and that limits on timber harvesting in these areas were not needed. In response, the USFWS agreed to conduct a listing status review. All studies performed since 1990 on spotted owl habitats and populations were reviewed

National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) established for endangered species, by state, acreage, and species of concern, 2005
State Unit name Species of concern Unit acreage
Source: ÒNational Wildlife Refuges Established for Endangered Species,Ò in AmericaÔs National Wildlife Refuge System, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2005, (accessed January 03, 2007)
Alabama Sauta Cave NWR Indiana Bat, Gray Bat 264
Fern Cave NWR Indiana Bat, Gray Bat 199
Key Cave NWR Alabama Cavefish, Gray Bat 1,060
Watercress Darter NWR Watercress Darter 7
Arkansas Logan Cave NWR Cave Crayfish, Gray Bat, Indiana Bat, Ozark Cavefish 124
Arizona Buenos Aires NWR Masked Bobwhite Quail 116,585
Leslie Canyon Gila Topminnow, Yaqui Chub, Peregrine Falcon 2,765
San Bernardino NWR Gila Topminnow, Yaqui Chub, Yaqui Catfish, Beautiful Shiner, Huachuca Water Umbel 2,369
California Antioch Dunes NWR Lange's Metalmark Butterfly, Antioch Dunes Evening-primrose, Contra Costa Wallflower 55
Bitter Creek NWR California Condor 14,054
Blue Ridge NWR California Condor 897
Castle Rock NWR Aleutian Canada Goose 14
Coachella Valley NWR Coachello Valley Fringe-toed Lizard 3,592
Don Edwards San Francisco Bay NWR California Clapper Rail, California Least Tern, Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse 21,524
Ellicott Slough NWR Santa Cruz Long-toed Salamander 139
Hopper Mountain NWR California Condor 2,471
Sacramento River NWR Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle, Bald Eagle, Least Bell's Vireo 7,884
San Diego NWR San Diego Fairy Shrimp, San Diego Mesa Mint, Otay Mesa Mint, California Orcutt Grass, San Diego Button-celery 1,840
San Joaquin River NWR Aleutian Canada Goose 1,638
Seal Beach NWR Light-footed Clapper Rail, California Least Tern 911
Sweetwater Marsh NWR Light-footed Clapper Rail 316
Tijuana Slough NWR Light-footed Clapper Rail 1,023
Florida Archie Carr NWR Loggerhead Sea Turtle, Green Sea Turtle 29
Crocodile Lake NWR American Crocodile 6,686
Crystal River NWR West Indian Manatee 80
Florida Panther NWR Florida Panther 23,379
Hobe Sound NWR Loggerhead Sea Turtle, Green Sea Turtle 980
Lake Wales Ridge NWR Florida Scrub Jay, Snakeroot, Scrub Blazing Star, Carter's Mustard, Papery Whitlow-wort, Florida Bonamia, Scrub Lupine, Highlands Scrub Hyopericum, Garett's Mint, Scrub Mint, Pygmy Gringe-tree, Wireweed, Florida Ziziphus, Scrub Plum, Eastern Indigo Snake, Bluetail Mole Skink, Sand Skink 659
National Key Deer Refuge Key Deer 8,542
St. Johns NWR Dusky Seaside Sparrow 6,255
Hawaii Hakalau Forest NWR Akepa, Akiapolaau, 'O'u, Hawaiian Hawk, Hawaiian Creeper 32,730
Hanalei NWR Hawaiian Stilt, Hawaiian Coot, Hawaiian Moorhen, Hawaiian Duck 917
Huleia NWR Hawaiian Stilt, Hawaiian Coot, Hawaiian Moorhen, Hawaiian Duck 241
James C. Campbell NWR Hawaiian Stilt, Hawaiian Coot, Hawaiian Moorhen, Hawaiian Duck 164
Kakahaia NWR Hawaiian Stilt, Hawaiian Coot 45
Kealia Pond NWR Hawaiian Stilt, Hawaiian Coot 691
Pearl Harbor NWR Hawaiian Stilt 61
Iowa Driftless Area NWR Iowa Pleistocene Snail 521
Massachusetts Massasoit NWR Plymouth Red-bellied Turtle 184
Michigan Kirtland's Warbler WMA Kirtland's Warbler 6,535
Mississippi Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR Mississippi Sandhill Crane 19,713
Missouri Ozark Cavefish NWR Ozark Cavefish 42
Pilot Knob NWR Indiana Bat 90
Nebraska Karl E. Mundt NWR Bald Eagle 19
Nevada Ash Meadows NWR Devil's Hole Pupfish, Warm Springs Pupfish, Ash Meadows Amargosa Pupfish, Ash Meadows Speckled Dace, Ash Meadows Naucorid, Ash Meadows Blazing Star, Amargosa Niterwort, Ash Meadows Milk-Vetch, Ash Meadows Sunray, Spring-loving Centaury, Ash Meadows Gumplant, Ash Meadows Invesia 13,268
Moapa Valley NWR Moapa Dace 32
Oklahoma Ozark Plateau NWR Ozark Big-eared Bat, Gray Bat 2,208
Oregon Bear Valley NWR Bald Eagle 4,200
Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for Columbian White-tail Deer Columbian White-tailed Deer 2,750
Nestucca Bay NWR Aleutian Canada Goose 457
South Dakota Karl E. Mundt NWR Bald Eagle 1,044
Texas Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR Attwater's Greater Prairie Chicken 8,007
Balcones Canyonlands NWR Black-capped Vireo, Golden-cheeked Warbler 14,144
Virgin Islands Green Cay NWR St. Croix Ground Lizard 14
Sandy Point NWR Leatherback Sea Turtle 327
Virginia James River NWR Bald Eagle 4,147
Mason Neck NWR Bald Eagle 2,276
Washington Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for Columbian White-tail Deer Columbian White-tailed Deer 2,777
Wyoming Mortenson Lake NWR Wyoming Toad 1,776
Selected endangered species and their delisting status, 2006
Species name Year species was listed and target delisting time framea, b Primary threat that has been, or is being, mitigated
aTarget time frames for delisting assume that remaining recovery actions are taken. However, many factors, including availability of funding, cooperation with partners, acquisition of land, and responsiveness of the species, may render these time frames unattainable or obsolete. We present estimates in 5-year increments.
bSpecies with a listing date before 1973, the year the Endangered Species Act was enacted, were originally listed under provisions of the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966 or the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969, and "grandfathered" onto the list of threatened and endangered species under the 1973 act.
cThe bald eagle was first listed in 1967, but the listing only applied to bald eagles in southern states. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) later determined that there was no morphological or geographical basis to distinguish northern and southern eagles and extended protection to all bald eagles in the 48 conterminous states in 1978.
dADPS is a subdivision of a vertebrate species that, for purposes of listing, is treated as a species under the Endangered Species Act.
Source: "Table 1. Species Facing a Primary Threat That Has Been, or Is Being, Mitigated," in Endangered Species: Many Factors Affect the Length of Time to Recover Select Species, U.S. Government Accountability Office, September 2006, (accessed December 29, 2006)
Bald eagle Listed: 1967/1978c The insecticide DDT causes reproductive failure in bald eagles. This threat was mitigated when the Environmental Protection Agency banned DDT in 1972. Habitat protections and guidance to avoid disturbing nesting sites have also helped. FWS proposed delisting the eagle in 1999; however, action was delayed because of legal concerns. FWS reinitiated the process to delist the bald eagle in February 2006.
Proposed for delisting: 1999 and 2006
Anticipated to be delisted: by 2010
Borax Lake chub (fish) Listed: 1980 The primary threats were geothermal development, and shoreline alteration due to grazing. Legislation prevented geothermal development and land acquisition is protecting shoreline.
Anticipated to be delisted: by 2015
Columbian white-tailed deerDouglas County DPSd Listed: 1967 Habitat protection via land acquisition and hunting restrictions were critical to the deer's recovery and subsequent delisting in July 2003.
Delisted: 2003
Gray wolfwestern Great Lakes recovery population Listed: 1967 Human predation was the primary threat facing the gray wolf; for instance, wolves were frequently killed by farmers to protect their livestock from predation. Programs that removed livestock-killing wolves, and compensated farmers who lost livestock to wolves, helped reduce this practice. Delisting has been delayed due to legal questions about how to delist this population, since all gray wolves are currently listed as a single entity rather than as distinct population segments.
Proposed for delisting: 2006
Anticipated to be delisted: by 2010
Papery whitlow-wortcentral Florida subspecies (plant) Listed: 1987 Habitat has been protected and restored through land acquisition and management activities.
Anticipated to be delisted: by 2010
Steller sea lioneastern DPSd Listed: 1990 The killing of steller sea lions by humans (for example, to protect fishing gear or to reduce population numbers) was a major threat that has been prohibited.
Anticipated to be delisted: by 2010
Magazine Mountain shagreen (land snail) Listed: 1989 Two planned actions that could have affected the species' habitat were withdrawn or mitigated.
Anticipated to be delisted: by 2010
Virginia round-leaf birch (tree) Listed: 1978 Helping propagation of seedlings in the wild and protecting them until they could withstand herbivory helped ensure the species' survival. Additionally, distributing seedlings to the public helped reduce illegal collecting.
Anticipated to be delisted: by 2015

again and summarized. In November 2004 the USFWS announced that the status review had reinforced the necessity of keeping the northern spotted owl listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

Similar conflicts between conservation and economic interests have raged in the United States over the protection of other animal species. These include the snail darter (a fish inhabiting the Tennessee River valley), Florida's gopher tortoises, and Coho salmon and sucker fish in Oregon's Klamath River Basin.


On the international front, endangered wild animals are protected by CITES. Under the Endangered Species Act, the United States participates in CITES to prohibit trade in listed species.

CITES includes three lists:

  • Appendix ISpecies for which no commercial trade is allowed. Noncommercial trade is permitted if it does not jeopardize species survival in the wild. Importers and exporters of Appendix I species must obtain permits.
  • Appendix IISpecies for which commercial trade is tightly regulated and managed with permits.
  • Appendix IIISpecies that may be negatively impacted by commercial trade. Permits are used to monitor trade in these species.

Listing of any species in Appendix I or Appendix II requires approval by a two-thirds majority of CITES nations. The CITES appendices list thousands of animals from all over the world.

Animals of major concern internationally include Asian and African elephants and primates. In "Catastrophic Ape Decline in Western Equatorial Africa" (Nature, April 10, 2003), Peter D. Walsh et al. report that gorillas and chimpanzees in western Africa are on the verge of extinction because of poaching (illegal hunting) and the Ebola virus. Walsh et al. estimate that approximately 80% of all wild gorillas and most wild chimpanzees live in western Africa. Their populations had dropped by more than half since the 1980s and are expected to continue to decrease rapidly unless drastic action is taken.

Logging roads associated with deforestation allow poachers easy access to areas that were previously inaccessible. They supply the growing trade in bushmeat (meat from wild animals such as elephants, primates, antelope, and crocodiles). Although ape meat makes up only a tiny percentage of bushmeat, wild chimpanzees are in great danger from the trade. Scientists say that consumption of contaminated bushmeat has passed the Ebola virus from animals to people.


Wildlife all over the world are killed for various reasons, including sport, commerce, and perceived threats to human interests.

Recreational Hunting

Hunting was originally a means of survival for humans. As societies became more dependent on agriculture and livestock, hunting gradually became more an activity of leisure, recreation, and sport than survival (though many hunters do still use the meat they procure to make up varying degrees of their diets). The USFWS conducts a national survey on hunting, fishing, and other wildlife-related activities every five years. The latest survey was conducted in 2001 and published in 2002. According to the survey, more than thirteen million Americans aged sixteen and over hunted wildlife in 2001. The vast majority of hunters surveyed (nearly eleven million) pursued big game, such as deer, elk, bear, and wild turkey. (See Table 3.9.) Other popular game included rabbits, squirrels, pheasants, quail, grouse, doves, ducks, geese, groundhogs, raccoons, foxes, and coyotes.

Hunters use a variety of implements to kill animals, including rifles, shotguns, handguns, and bows and arrows. Animal welfarists argue about which methods they consider the least cruel and which are associated with the smallest number of nonfatal injuries. In general, they consider firearms more humane than bows and arrows.

In January 2004 the FFA released the report A Dying Sport: The State of Hunting in America. The report provides statistics on hunter demographics and expenditures and the number of animals killed by hunting each year. According to the FFA, the number of U.S. hunters declined by 7% between 1991 and 2001, even though expenditures for licenses, permits, and so on increased by 22%. The decline in numbers of hunters is attributed to the decrease in the country's rural population coupled with less availability of land for hunting.

Hunters and days of hunting, by type of game, 2001
[Population 16 years old and older; numbers in thousands]
Type of game Hunters Days of hunting Average days per hunter
Number Percent Number Percent
Note: Detail does not add to total because of multiple responses.
Source: "Hunters and Days of Hunting," in Quick Facts from the 2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, October 2002, (accessed January 9, 2007)
   Total, all big game 10,911 100 153,191 100 14
Deer 10,272 94 133,457 87 13
Elk 910 8 6,402 4 7
Bear 360 3 3,334 2 9
Wild turkey 2,504 23 23,165 15 9
Other big game 527 5 5,010 3 10
   Total, all small game 5,434 100 60,142 100 11
Rabbit, hare 2,099 39 22,768 38 11
Quail 991 18 7,926 13 8
Grouse/prairie chicken 1,010 19 9,169 15 9
Squirrel 2,119 39 22,333 37 11
Pheasant 1,723 32 12,769 21 7
Other small game 505 9 5,200 9 10
   Total, all migratory birds 2,956 100 29,310 100 10
Geese 1,000 34 10,508 36 11
Ducks 1,589 54 18,290 62 12
Doves 1,450 49 9,041 31 6
Other migratory bird 210 7 1,523 5 7
   Total, all other animals (fox, raccoon, groundhog, etc.) 1,047 100 19,207 100 18

The FFA also notes that in 2001 the vast majority (91%) of all hunters were male, and 97% were white. Nearly half of all hunters were between the ages of thirty-five and fifty-four. Hunters spent just over $642 million in 2001 on licenses, tags, and other fees required by state wildlife agencies. Total hunting expenditures were around $20.6 billion in 2001. Approximately half of this amount goes toward the cost of hunting equipment.

The FFA estimates that 115 million animals were killed by hunters during the 200203 hunting season. Table 3.10 provides a breakdown by species of the most hunted animals during the 200102 deer and 200203 nondeer hunting season. The animal protection group In Defense of Animals (IDA) claims that hunters injure millions of other animals, damage habitats, and disrupt the eating, migration, hibernation, and mating habits of protected animals. For example, the IDA (June 7, 2006, estimates that for every animal killed instantly by hunters, at least two wounded animals die slow, painful deaths from hunting injuries. Furthermore, it states that careless hunters also kill and wound domestic animals and people each year.


Trophy hunting is the hunting of animals, particularly exotic (foreign) species, for collection of the carcasses or parts thereof (such as the head or horns) as trophies, or symbols, of the hunter's conquest over the animal. As shown in Figure 3.5, just over one third of all animal import permits issued by the USFWS during FY 2003 were for the purpose of trophy hunting.

TABLE 3.10
Number of animals killed by hunters, 200102 deer season and 200203 season for nondeer game
*Deer number is from 200102 hunting season.
Source: Adapted from "Table 1. National Overview," in A Dying Sport: The State of Hunting in America, Fund for Animals, January 2004
Doves 22,702,000
Squirrels 22,650,000
Ducks 12,740,000
Rabbits 10,942,000
Grouse, quail, partridges 10,500,000
Deer* 6,400,000
Pheasants 5,900,000
Geese 3,379,000
Raccoons 3,090,000

One type of trophy hunting conducted by commercial enterprises is called canned hunting. This is a type of hunting in which animals are fenced in or otherwise enclosed in a space for the enjoyment of trophy hunters. Canned hunting dates back to at least the seventh century BC, when the Assyrians captured lions and then released them to be hunted to death.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) estimates that there are hundreds of canned hunt operators in the United States, mostly in Texas. Many offer a "no kill, no pay" policy. The most common animals involved in canned hunting are exotic species of antelope, deer, goats, sheep, cattle, swine, bears, zebra, and big cats. Hunters generally pay a set price for each exotic animal killed. Table 3.11 shows a price list compiled by the HSUS that gives the price range for various animals involved in canned hunts.

In August 2006 the country music singer Troy Lee Gentry was indicted by a federal grand jury for killing a bear named Cubby during a canned hunt in Minnesota and falsifying papers to make it appear that the bear was killed in the wild. According to "Troy Gentry Accused of Killing Tame Bear" (, August 16, 2006), Gentry paid $4,650 for the bear. The killing was videotaped but edited so it appeared that Gentry killed the bear in a natural hunting situation. The article "Troy Gentry Pleads Guilty to Cubby the Bear Killing" (USA Today, November 27, 2006) states that in November 2006 Gentry pleaded guilty to falsifying records on a game animal and testified against the local hunting guide who had arranged the canned hunt. The guide pleaded guilty to two felony charges of violating wildlife laws. Gentry was assessed a $15,000 fine, was banned from hunting in Minnesota for five years, and had to relinquish the bear's hide, which he had kept as a trophy.

TABLE 3.11

Sample prices for canned hunts, by type of animal hunted, 2003


Addax $1,200-$4,000

Antelope, Sable $3,000-$8,000

Blackbuck $750-$2,500

Blesbok $1,500-$3,000

Eland $1,200-$2,500

Gazelle, Grants $800-$2,000

Gazelle, Dama $800-$3,500

Gazelle, Thompsons $800-$2,400

Gemsbok $800-$3,500

Gnu $1,500-$4,000

Impala $1,000-$2,400

Kudu $3,500-$6,000

Nilgai $1,500

Oryx, horned Scimitar $1,500-$3,500

Oryx, Beisa $1,500-$3,500

Sitatunga $1,000-$2,500

Springbuck $800-$1,600

Waterbuck $1,500-$3,500


Buffalo, Cape $4,000-$6,000

Buffalo, Water $3,500


Barsingha (E) $3,500

Deer, Axis $500-$1,500

Deer, Fallow $500-$1,500

Deer, Red $1,500-$6,000

Deer, Sika $700-$1,500


Goat, Angora $250-$325

Goat, Catalina $250-$325

Goat, Pygmy $350

Ibex $2,000

Tahr $2,500


Aoudad $750-$2,000

Mouflon $400-$1,500

Sheep, Barbados $250-$350

Sheep, Corsican $250-$500

Sheep, Four-Horn $850


Wild Boar $200-$1,000


Rhinoceros (Eall except Southern white subspecies) $10,000-$20,000

Zebra, Grants $800-$2,000

Note: List is a composite based upon actual brochures/price lists from canned hunt operators.

E=Federally listed endangered species.

source: "Sample Prices for Canned Hunts," in Canned Hunts: Unfair at Any Price, Humane Society of the United States, 2003, (accessed January 3, 2007)

In 2005 the first known canned hunt conducted via the Internet took place. According to the HSUS, in "The Latest Fad in Internet Animal Cruelty: Pay-Per-View Hunting" (April 8, 2005,, a canned hunting ranch in Texas arranged for Internet users to fire shots at animals on the ranch via computer-controlled hunting rifles. The HSUS calls it "trophy hunting without the fuss and muss of having to hunt at all." Animal welfare and mainstream hunting groups have criticized the practice as unsportsmanlike. As of July 2006, twenty-three states had banned Internet hunting. (See Figure 3.6.)

The HSUS and other animal welfare groups are opposed to canned hunting. They consider it unsportsmanlike and cruel. Animal welfare groups believe that many relatively tame animals dumped by zoos, circuses, and exhibitors wind up victims of canned hunts. These animals are not afraid of humans and make easy targets for trophy hunters. There are many surplus exotic animals in the United States because of overbreeding. The HSUS believes that canned hunts provide a financial incentive that aggravates the problem. Unwanted and purposely overbred exotic animals are passed on by breeders and dealers to game and hunting preserves specializing in canned hunts.

According to the press release "Congress Shoots Down Taxidermy Tax Scam" (August 4, 2006, _shoots_down_taxidermy.html), the HSUS spearheaded passage in 2006 of a provision in the Pension Reform Act that will tighten restrictions on trophy hunters that deduct certain hunting expenses from their taxes. A loophole in the tax code had allowed trophy hunters to deduct the costs of hunting excursions if the killed animal was donated to a museum. According to a two-year HSUS investigation, some trophy hunters were donating their kills to phony museums and writing off all costs for the hunting expedition on their taxes. Under the new provision trophy hunters donating their kills to museums can only deduct the amount that it would have cost to buy a comparable trophy on the open market, not the cost of the hunting trip. The law change is expected to save taxpayers nearly $5 million per year.

Wildlife Control


Killing is often the control method of choice on federal lands, including national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and other areas overseen by the USFWS, USFS, BLM, and the National Park Service. The USFWS notes in the 2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation (October 2002, that 40% of hunters hunted on public lands in 2001.

Most people assume that national wildlife refuges are truly refuges, where animals are protected from hunting; however, federal law allows the government to permit secondary uses, such as hunting, on wildlife refuges if a review of the potential effects indicates that protected wildlife will not be adversely affected. Other allowed secondary uses include fishing, wildlife watching, and environmental education programs.

The USFWS notes in "Where Can I Go Hunting?" (December 2006, that hunting was permitted on 317 of the nation's 545 national wildlife refuges. Figure 3.7 shows the number of refuges open to hunting in each state. North Dakota has the most units (nineteen), followed by Alaska and Louisiana (sixteen each), Minnesota (fifteen), and Montana (fourteen).

The USFWS insists that hunting is necessary to manage wildlife populations. Animal rights advocates are opposed to all hunting and bitterly criticize the federal government for allowing hunting in national refuges. Welfare groups are openly skeptical that hunting is an effective solution to overpopulation. The IDA points out that hunters seek out not starving animals but large and healthy ones. It argues that hunting is not about conserving species but about human power, status, and collecting wild animal heads and antlers as trophies.

Deer are the animals most often associated with hunts designed to prevent overpopulation. The deer population has exploded in the latter part of the twentieth century for a variety of reasons, including lack of natural predators. The USFWS and state wildlife agencies commonly justify hunting as a humane method of killing deer that would otherwise starve because of overpopulation. They argue that death by hunting is more humane than allowing deer to slowly starve to death. Animal welfare groups believe that hunting actually aggravates population problems, claiming it upsets the natural ratio between bucks (male deer) and does (female deer) and results in higher reproduction rates. The IDA says that deer make up only a small percentage of the animals killed by hunters and claims that the vast majority of hunted wild species are not considered overpopulated. It believes that sport hunting should be banned and that natural predators, such as wolves and mountain lions, should be reintroduced wherever possible to control deer populations.

Hunters just as vigorously defend their sport and their role in conserving wildlife. The U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance (USSA) and the Safari Club International (SCI) are major groups representing the interests of hunters. The USSA operates the Sportsmen's Legal Defense Fund (SLDF). The SLDF and the SCI intervene in lawsuits filed by antihunting groups against government wildlife management and natural resources agencies. The SCI also operates Sportsmen against Hunger, a program that donates wild game meat to hunger-relief agencies.

Hunting proponents note that hunting fees support government conservation programs. According to the "20052006 Federal Duck Stamp Fact Sheet" (2006,, the USFWS notes that the duck stamp has raised more than $700 million since its inception in 1934 and this money has purchased more than 5.2 million acres of land for the wildlife refuge system. Nearly $239 million in federal excise taxes on hunting equipment was collected for FY 2005. (See Table 3.12.) Most of this money (more than $219 million) was earmarked for distribution to individual states to support their wildlife management programs. Figure 3.8 shows the annual distribution of excise tax receipts from 1996 to 2005.

Critics claim that hunting fees account for only a small portion of the money required to operate the country's conservation programs and that the government uses money obtained from hunting fees to set aside more areas for hunting. They want greater focus on activities such as wildlife watching and environmental education at wildlife refuges.

TABLE 3.12
Disposition of federal excise taxes collected on hunting equipment, fiscal year 2005
*Total excise tax receipts available for fiscal year 2005 were collected in fiscal year 2004. Note: As required by law, deductions from excise tax receipts are for specific programs and funding levels. Data are of undetermined reliability.
Source: "Figure 1. Wildlife Restoration Program Tax Receipts, Deductions, and Apportionment to States for Fiscal Year 2005," in Fish and Wildlife Service: Federal Assistance Program Is Making Progress Addressing Previously Identified Concerns, U.S. Government Accountability Office, July 5, 2006, (accessed December 29, 2006)
     Total excise tax receipts available for fiscal year 2005 $238,807,000*
Firearm and bow hunter $8,000,000
Education and safety grants
Multi-state conservation $3,000,000
Grant program
Administration $8,611,000
  &  Available for state apportionment $219,196,000

The USFWS states in the 2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation that 66.1 million American adults observed, fed, or photographed wildlife in 2001. This is five times the number that hunted wildlife that year. These wildlife recreationists spent $38.4 billion on travel, equipment, and other items. This represents 35% of the total dollars spent on wildlife-related activities in 2001.


A killing method that receives much criticism from animal protection groups is the trapping of fur-bearing animals. Welfarists consider traps to be especially cruel because the panicked animals are often trapped for a long period before being discovered and killed; sometimes they chew off their own limbs to escape. Trapping is used as a control method on federal lands, including refuges. It is done by refuge staff, by trappers under contract to the refuges, and by members of the public who obtain special permits.

The Animal Protection Institute (API) examined USFWS data collected in 1997 as part of an investigative study of trapping at wildlife refuges around the country. The API (2007, claims that many nontarget species were captured in body-gripping traps at refuges, including river otters, feral and domestic cats and dogs, rabbits, geese, alligators, ducks, hawks, owls, eagles, and bears. Some of these animals were killed immediately by the trapping devices or died from injuries sustained during trapping. Others were released unharmed upon their discovery by the trappers.

Table 3.13 lists the states and cities around the country that have banned certain types of traps and snares, particularly old-fashioned leghold traps that use steel jaws to clamp down on the legs of trapped animals.

Fur and Other Products

Many wild animals are killed purely for their fur or parts. The most common wildlife commodities are:

  • Fur from mink, beaver, foxes, rabbits, bears, and seals
  • Hides from tigers, leopards, and other big cats
  • Rhinoceros horns, reindeer antlers, snake blood, shark fins, various organs, and the penises from seals, tigers, and rhinoceros (these items are believed by some people to act as aphrodisiacssupplements designed to enhance sexual performance)
  • Bones, claws, paws, fangs, brains, eyeballs, tails, and internal organs from tigers (all are used in traditional Asian medicines)
  • Bile from wild boars, bears, and snakes (used in aphrodisiacs and traditional Asian medicines)
  • Elephant tusks (for ivory)
  • Bear paws (considered a delicacy in some Asian countries)


Most animals used in the fur trade are bred and raised in cages on farms. Some animals, however, are still trapped or killed in the wild, particularly seals. The killing of seals for fur was a high-profile issue of the animal rights movement during the 1970s. Greenpeace activists traveled to hunting areas to splash dye on seals and draw media attention to their slaughter.

The killing of seals caught public attention because sealsusually babies only a few weeks oldon ice floes were usually clubbed in the head, then dragged with hooks across the ice. Animal welfarists who witnessed seal hunts claimed to have seen seals skinned while still alive and conscious. Seal hunters argued that clubbing was humane and killed the seals quickly. Seals swimming in the water were shot instead of clubbed. Critics claimed that many of these seals were injured and drowned after they sank below the surface.

In 1972 the United States banned all imports of seal products. A decade later the European Union put strict importation limits on seal pelts. As a result, Canada's seal fur industry was virtually eliminated. However, Clifford Krauss reports in "New Demand Drives Canada's Baby Seal Hunt" (New York Times, April 5, 2004) that Canada's seal fur industry became larger than ever because of high demand from eastern Europe and China. Krauss notes that baby seals are still clubbed to death on the ice, but new regulations mean that only seals older than two weeks are subject to the hunt. At this age the seals have lost their pure white fur and developed a gray spotted coat. According to Krauss, the renewed hunt has not aroused widespread public protest because "tougher hunting rules, including stiffer regulations to avert skinning the seals alive, have muted the effort to stop the hunt and eased the consciences of Canadians."

TABLE 3.13
State and local bans on trapping methods, 2006
States Year Ban
Source: "City and State Trapping Bans," in Fur and TrappingCity and State Trapping Bans, Humane Society of the United States, 2006, (accessed December 29, 2006)
Washington 2000 ballot initiative Citizens voted in favor (55%) of banning the use of leghold traps, other body-gripping traps, and snares for recreation and commerce in fur. In May 2003, the governor vetoed a rollback of the ban.
California 1998 ballot initiative Voters supported (57%) Proposition 4, which banned the use of leghold traps, other body-gripping traps, and snares for recreation and commerce in fur.
Massachusetts 1996 ballot initiative Voters passed (64%) The Wildlife Protection Act, banning the use of leghold traps, other body-gripping traps, and snares for capturing fur-bearing animals.
Colorado 1992 ballot initiative Citizens voted in favor (52%) of a constitutional amendment banning the use of leghold, other body-gripping traps and snares.
Arizona 1992 ballot initiative Voters (58%) enacted a ban on the use of leghold traps, other body-gripping traps, and snares on public landwhich makes up 80% of the state.
New Jersey 1986 legislation The New Jersey legislature banned both possession and use of leghold traps, making it the most restrictive of the leghold trap bans.
Rhode Island 1977 legislation Rhode Island legislators banned the use of the leghold trap to capture any animal.
Florida 1974 regulation The Florida Fish and Game Commission enacted a regulation prohibiting the use of any steel or leghold trap where wildlife might be found.
Columbia, Maryland 2003 city ordinance The city council unanimously voted to ban leghold traps.
Nashua, New Hampshire 1994 city ordinance The city council passed a ban on the use of leghold traps and other bodygripping traps and snares.
Two Harbors, Minnesota 1990 city ordinance The city council voted to ban the leghold trap throughout most of the city.
St. Paul, Minnesota 1985 city ordinance The city council unanimously voted to ban all lethal trapping and the sale of all lethal traps.

TABLE 3.14

Animal organizations worldwide that support the Protect Seals Network, 2006

  • American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
  • Anima (Denmark)
  • Animal (Portugal)
  • Animalia (Finland)
  • Animal Alliance of Canada
  • Animal Friends Croatia
  • Animal Protection Institute (API) (USA)
  • Animal Rights Sweden
  • Asociacion Nacional Para la Defensa de los Animales (ANDA, Spain)
  • Bont Voor Dieren (Fur for Animals, The Netherlands)
  • Born Free Foundation (United Kingdom)
  • CETA (Life, Ukraine)
  • Compassion in World Farming (CIWF, Ireland)
  • Dyrevernalliansen (Norwegian Animal Welfare Alliance)
  • Earth Island Institute (USA)
  • Environment Voters (Canada)
  • Eurogroup for Animal Welfare
  • The Franz Weber Foundation (Switzerland)
  • Fundación Altarriba (Spain)
  • Fondation 30 Millions d'Amis (France)
  • GAIA (Belgium)
  • Global Action Network (Canada)
  • Greenpeace
  • The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)
  • International Wildlife Coalition (IWC)
  • Asian, Australian, and United Kingdom branches of Humane Society International (HSI)
  • LAV (Lega Anti Vivisezione, Italy)
  • The Marine Mammal Center (USA)
  • Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USA)
  • Marchig Animal Welfare Trust (United Kingdom)
  • Nova Scotia Humane Society (Canada)
  • Ocean Futures Society (USA)
  • One Voice (France)
  • Organization International pour la Protection des Animaux (France)
  • Respect for Animals (United Kingdom)
  • Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA, United Kingdom)
  • Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (USA)
  • STS/PSA (Schweizer Tierschutz/Protection Suisse des Animaux/Swiss Animal Protection)
  • Svoboda Zvirat (Freedom for Animals, Czech Republic)
  • Vancouver Humane Society (Canada)
  • Vier Pfoten e.V. (Germany)
  • VITA (Russia)
  • World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA)

source: "The Protect Seals Network," in Marine Mammals: The Protect Seals Network, Humane Society of the United States, 2006, (accessed December 28, 2006)

In 2004 many animal welfare and rights groups launched new campaigns against Canadian seal hunting. Dozens of groups, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, HSUS, FFA, and Greenpeace, joined together to form the Protect Seals Network. (See Table 3.14.) The network calls for a boycott of Canadian seafood to protest the seal hunt. According to the HSUS, in "A Cruel Hunt That Must Be Stopped" (2007,, more than 354,000 seals were killed in the 2006 Canadian seal hunt in the North Atlantic ocean.


There is a huge market for wild animal parts throughout Asia, particularly in China. Many parts are used in traditional remedies for various illnesses and diseases. In addition, animal penises are sold as aphrodisiacs. The animal most sought after is the tiger. Tiger hides sell for as much $20,000 each, and tiger bones are ground up and used in medicines for rheumatism and arthritis. Tiger penises are used in aphrodisiacs, soups, and various medicines.

Tigers are listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. Leopards are classified as either endangered or threatened, depending on the location of the wild population. According to the USFWS, many tigers are worth more dead than alive. The animals breed easily in captivity and have been extremely overbred in the United States. Baby tigers are popular at zoos and animal parks, but they grow up quickly and are expensive to care for as adults. Unwanted and overbred tigers from zoos, refuges, and game parks can wind up in the hands of unscrupulous dealers who kill the animals for their valuable parts. Federal law allows the possession of captive-bred tigers, but only if their use enhances the propagation or survival of the species. It is illegal to kill the animals for profit or sell their parts, meat, or hide in interstate commerce. It is not illegal to donate the animals.


Ivory is a hard, creamy white substance found in the tusks of African elephants and some male Asian elephants. Demand for ivory was so high during the twentieth century that hundreds of thousands of elephants were poached (illegally killed) for it. Conservation groups estimate that more than half the population of African elephants was wiped out during the 1980s alone. In 1990 an international ban on ivory trade was established under CITES. Although the ban helped to severely reduce elephant poaching, it did not eliminate the problem. In "Elephant Poaching and Ivory Seizures" (2007,, the HSUS reports that during 2001 and early 2002 at least 965 African elephants and 39 Asian elephants were poached and had their ivory tusks removed. It is believed that hundreds of elephants are still killed illegally each year for their ivory.

In 1997 CITES restrictions were loosened to allow some countries to sell surplus quantities of ivory. Hillary Mayell notes in "Enlist Ivory Carvers to Help Save Elephants?" (National Geographic News, June 26, 2003) that approximately two hundred tons of ivory were stockpiled in more than a dozen African and Asian countries by 1998. This ivory accumulated through seizures from poachers and from legitimate sources, such as elephants that died from natural causes or were legally killed by game wardens. Countries with large wild elephant populations are pressing the international community to allow them to sell ivory reserves to finance expensive elephant conservation programs. Animal welfare groups fear that releasing large amounts of ivory into the market will raise demand for ivory and reinvigorate illegal trade and poaching.


International trade in exotic animals and their parts is a multibillion-dollar industry. TRAFFIC is an organization that monitors worldwide wildlife trade. According to TRAFFIC (2006,, the worldwide trade in wildlife products was worth approximately $160 billion per year during the early 1990s.

Whaling and Fishing


Whaling has been an industry in northern seas for hundreds of years. The oil and blubber from whales were popular commodities in many markets. By the beginning of the twentieth century whaling had taken a significant toll on whale populations. The United States banned commercial whaling in 1928. In 1946 the International Whaling Commission (IWC) was founded by twenty-four member countries (including the United States) as a means of self-regulating the industry and limiting the number and type of whales that could be killed. In 1986 all IWC countries agreed to ban commercial whaling after most whale populations were placed under Appendix I of the CITES agreement. Whaling was still allowed for "scientific purposes," however.

Conservation and animal rights groups have complained for years that some IWC countries, particularly Japan, kill many whales under this loophole. Whalers and some scientists say that some whale species are not endangered and should be subjected to controlled hunts.

In 2002 Iceland rejoined the IWC after dropping out in 1991, but with the reservation that it would not support a ban on commercial whaling. This started an internal battle within the IWC about what the commission's role should be. Some countries believe that the IWC's focus should be entirely on conservation. Others would like to see the IWC become more industry-friendly. In "Iceland Begins Commercial Whaling" (BBC News, October 17, 2006), Richard Black reports that in 2006 Iceland announced that it will resume commercial whaling and plans to take nine fin whales (an endangered species) and thirty minke whales annually. As of January 2007, seventy-two countries were members of the IWC.


In the 2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, the USFWS reports that the number of U.S. hunters was down considerably in 2001 from historical levels. However, as shown in Figure 3.9, the number of people participating in recreational/sport fishing (or angling) has risen dramatically since 1955, the year in which the first survey was conducted. In the figure, the 1955 participant estimates are set to an arbitrary index value of one hundred. The number of participants in successive surveys was then calculated relative to the beginning index value. Thus, by 1975 the number of Americans participating in recreational fishing had doubled and continued to climb through the early 1990s, before beginning to decline.

In 1950 the federal government established the Sport Fish Restoration Program following passage of the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act. This program funnels excise tax receipts from the sale of certain fishing and boating equipment to various state and federal programs and agencies devoted to furthering sports fishing. As shown in Table 3.15, nearly $461 million was collected for FY 2005. More than half of the money ($273 million) was earmarked for state agency spending on sport fishing programs. Figure 3.10 shows the annual amounts collected through the Sport Fish Restoration Program for FYs 1996 through 2005.


Commercial fishing of many species is blamed for a host of environmental and conservation problems in the world's oceans. Overfishing and poor management have caused severe declines in some populations. In "Rapid Worldwide Depletion of Predatory Fish Communities" (Nature, May 15, 2003), Ransom A. Myers and Boris Worm report that commercial fishing has decreased the world's population of large predatory ocean fishes by 90%. These fish include blue marlin, cod, tuna, and swordfish. Scientists find that the most sought-after species were quickly diminished by overfishing and then replaced by less desirable species. These replacement species were also depleted quickly. Technological advances such as global positioning systems and sonar have allowed commercial fisherman to better find and follow great schools of fish in previously uncharted waters.

Another criticism of commercial fishing is that it endangers marine mammals and other fish besides those the fisherman want to catch. Experts estimate that thousands of nontarget specimens are killed each year after becoming entangled in fishing nets and devices. According to Earthtrust (August 31, 2005,, a nonprofit wildlife conservation organization headquartered in Honolulu, Hawaii, approximately seven million dolphins were killed between 1959 and 1991 because of purse-seining in the eastern tropical Pacific. Purse-seining is a fishing technique in which giant nets are encircled around schools of fish. It is a popular way to capture tuna. Schools of tuna are fre-quently accompanied by pods of dolphins. In fact, some fishermen chase and set their nets around dolphins to capture the nearby tuna. Because dolphins are mammals, they require air to breathe. The dolphins can get caught and drown in the nets. Negative publicity about the problem during the 1980s led consumers to demand changes in tuna fishing and labeling.

TABLE 3.15
Disposition of federal excise taxes collected on fishing equipment, fiscal year 2005
Total excise tax receipts available for fiscal year 2005 $460,752,000*
*Total excise tax receipts available for fiscal year 2005 were collected in fiscal year 2004 and include interest income.
Note: As required by law, deductions from excise tax receipts are for specific programs and funding levels. Data are of undetermined reliability.
Source: "Figure 3. Sport Fish Restoration Program Tax Receipts, Deductions, and Apportionment to States for Fiscal Year 2005," in Fish and Wildlife Service: Federal Assistance Program Is Making Progress Addressing Previously Identified Concerns, U.S. Government Accountability Office, July 5, 2006, (accessed December 29, 2006)
Boat safety
Transfers to Coast Guard $64,000,000
Army Corps of Engineers
Coastal wetlands $58,054,804
Fish and Wildlife Service wetlands grants $24,880,630
Fish and Wildlife Service clean vessel grants $10,000,000
Recreation vessel
Access grants $8,000,000
Fish and Wildlife Service outreach grants $10,000,000
Multi-state conservation
Grant program $3,000,000
Fishery Commissions and Boating Council $1,200,000
Administration $8,611,000
Available for state apportionment $273,005,978

In 1990 the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act was passed, establishing an official definition of "dolphin-safe" tuna. Canners must meet certain criteria before they can label their tuna dolphin-safe, and U.S. fishermen modified their fishing techniques to meet the criteria. Purse-seine fishing is still widely practiced by foreign fishing industries, particularly in Mexico and South America.

In 2002 the NMFS (December 31, 2002, announced its finding that the tuna purse-seine industry has "no significant adverse impact" on dolphin populations in the eastern tropical Pacific. This finding allows foreign fishermen using the technique to import their fish into the United States as dolphin-safe if an onboard observer certifies that no dolphins were killed or seriously injured during the catch.

Critics claim that purse-seine fishing is inhumane to dolphins even if they are released from the nets alive because it can separate baby dolphins from their mothers. In January 2003 the Earth Island Institute and eight other environmental, conservation, and animal welfare groups (including the HSUS) filed suit against the NMFS in federal court to halt implementation of the ruling. In August 2004 a federal judge ruled that the "dolphin-safe" label could not be used on any tuna products caught by netting dolphins.


A variety of individuals, groups, and agencies are involved in rescue or rehabilitation of wildlife. Most state wildlife and fish and game agencies operate rehabilitation programs and require private individuals and groups rehabilitating and releasing native wildlife to be licensed. In addition, the USFWS requires federal permits for those rehabilitating migratory bird species.

The HSUS operates the five-acre Cape Wildlife Center in West Barnstable, Massachusetts. The center includes a wildlife rehabilitation facility and a veterinary clinic for injured, sick, and orphaned wild animals. Although the center is not open to the public, it operates a hotline to answer questions and offer suggestions about ways in which wildlife and humans can coexist.

The Association of Sanctuaries (TAOS) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1992 to accredit sanctuaries that rescue and care for all kinds of animals, including wild animals. The rescued animals are not used for commercial purposes or allowed to breed in captivity. As of January 2007 twenty-two TAOS-accredited sanctuaries in the United States rehabilitated and released or provided sanctuary for wild animals that could not be returned to their natural habitat ( These include unwanted exotic pets and circus and zoo animals. One example is the Elephant Sanctuary near Hohenwald, Tennessee. It was founded in 1995 as the country's first natural habitat refuge specifically for endangered Asian and African elephants. As of January 2007, the 2,700-acre sanctuary housed twenty-three female elephants.

There are hundreds of other rescue and rehabilitation facilities around the country. Many are nonprofit, taxexempt operations run by individuals or animal groups. The quality of care offered by these facilities depends on the expertise of the staff and the funds available. The HSUS is critical of some of these facilities. In "Neglecting over 90 Tigers, 58 Cubs Found Stuffed into Freezer" (April 22, 2003,, Wayne Pacelle, the vice president of HSUS, said, "We call them pseudo-sanctuaries. They're primarily engaged in commercial activities while passing themselves off as a nonprofit."

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Prehistory makes clear that our ancestors continuously conceptualized their relations with the myriad forms of plants and animals with whom their existence was interwoven. These ancient musings, more mythological than scientific, were the first sustained efforts to comprehend the order of nature. The noun wildlife has been in use no more than 125 years. But the swirl of ideas around wildlife, however inchoate, is nearly as old as the human species.

Reconstructions of the conceptual dimensions of wildlife prior to the advent of agriculture are based on carvings, paintings, burial, and other material artifacts as well as the study of contemporaneous indigenous cultures living outside the cocoon of industrial civilization. While generalization remains provisional, the Paleolithic era of hunting and gathering was marked by notions of plants and especially animals as totems and dual presences. As totems the other species taught their two-legged kin the ways of the world: survival more than anything else. As dual presences the others encouraged the notion that all creatures were shape-shifters, bound up in the ongoing cyclical process of life in relationships based on reciprocity rather than dominion. The "economy of nature" (itself a modern term) was conceptualized as sacramental, based on the myth of the eternal return.

The New Stone Age (c. 15,00010,000 b.p.) slowly but inexorably overturned the established notion of one creation binding all creatures together. The cultivation of cereal grasses and domestication of animals led to a binary categorization of the wild and tame. The wild encompassed the plants and animals not under human control. Unwanted plants intruding upon fields became weeds. Population blooms of insects that ravaged the fields became plagues. Animals that preyed on livestock became predators.

The tame included the lands and domesticated species under the control of civilization. Domestication entails selection for characteristics that, however desirable for human purposes, would in many cases be lethal in a natural environment. Cereal grasses were valued because their seeds were retained in the head so that they could be harvested. Domesticated cattle were valued because they were docile and amenable to herding.

As permanent settlement spread, lingering memories of a time before agriculture when humans were intimately entwined with the others were expressed in sources such as the Gilgamesh epic and the Old Testament. Psalm 104 praises the glory of a creator god and the intricacy of the living creation. Even as the psalmist sang, there was a dawning realization that humankind was not a good steward: "I brought you into a fruitful land, to enjoy its fruit and the goodness of it; but when you entered upon it you defiled my land, and made the home I gave you an abomination" (Jeremiah 2:7).

Changing Conceptions of Wildlife in Darwin's Century

Nineteenth-century evolutionary theory and the discovery of Paleolithic archeological materials established three fundamental ideas. First, that biophysical evolution existed on a temporal scale far beyond conventional schemes of history and culture. Second, the human species itself had a natural history that, however poorly understood, clearly linked the "Descent of Man," as Charles Darwin put it, with an ancient and continuing evolutionary stream. And third, evolutionary theory made clear that the domestication of plants and animals was little more than tinkering with natural history for human purposes, especially economic ones.

While the nineteenth century did not overturn the modern notion that humankind was the master and possessor of nature, a somewhat chastened estimate of our place in nature emerged. Henry David Thoreau (18171862) observed in 1838 that hunting and trapping had eliminated the mountain lion and black bear from most of New England. He challenged his coevals to reconsider the fate of a culture that was losing connection with wild places and creatures. Near the end of the century, John Muir (18381914) argued for the creation of national parks as refugia for wildlife and as places to nourish the human spirit. While protective legislation dates to the early 1600s (e.g., Bermuda's protection of the cahow and the green turtle), the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries marked the beginnings of systematic approach to the conservation of wildlife. Yellowstone (1872) was the first national park in America. Created primarily to protect unique geological features, Yellowstone's value for wildlife preservation soon became apparent. President Theodore Roosevelt's (18581919) and Gifford Pinchot's (18651946) efforts around the turn of the century were instrumental in legislative efforts to create a system of public lands that offered protection for wildlife. Progressive resource conservation found many allies, such as sport hunters, who reacted vigorously to the depredations of market hunting on wildlife. (Predators did not enjoy legislative protection until passage of the Endangered Species Act near the end of the twentieth century).

Wildlife in the Twentieth Century

The early-to mid-twentieth century was marked by an increased scientific understanding of wildlife and an increased willingness on the part of nations to protect it. The International Union for the Protection of Nature (now the World Conservation Union) was established in 1948 and gave birth shortly thereafter to the World Wildlife Fund. These and other global organizations, such as the United Nations, and conventions, such as the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972), were dedicated to protecting wildlife through a variety of strategies. These included moratoriums on trade in endangered species and the creation of reserves, such as those designated as World Natural Heritage Sites.

Despite such efforts, the continuing humanization of the planet made the long-term survival prospects for wildlife increasingly uncertain. As the twentieth century ended, the biological sciences conclusively established the reality of an anthropogenic mass extinction of terrestrial flora and fauna. Estimates of human-caused extinction rates ranged from a low of one hundred to a high of one thousand times greater than natural rates. Humankind's increasing population and subsequent levels of economic demand led to rapid development of the few remaining areas, such as Amazonia, that were primary habitats for wildlife. Patterns of human settlement in developed nations, including sprawl, urbanization, and the fragmentation of habitat, increasingly impacted remnant populations of wild plants and animals. Less direct impacts on wildlife were the consequence of the increase in global temperature, predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to increase by 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the twenty-first century. Given such dramatic increase, the possibility of retreat by heat sensitive species appeared doubtful.

Progress in scientific understanding was paralleled by ethical advance. The pioneering work of Thoreau and Muir was followed in the twentieth century by a variety of ecological ethics that charged humanity with obligations to conserve wild places and things, and to restore those species, such as the wolf, that had been thoughtlessly endangered. These ranged from the secular, such Aldo Leopold's (18871948) land ethic, A Sand County Almanac (1949), to the religious caring for creation movement that followed Lynn White, Jr.'s charge in a 1967 issue of Science magazine that Jews and Christians were to blame for ecological crisis.

Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (1961), which focused on the consequences for avian species of the toxic chemicals used in a war against nature, marked the point where the environmental movement became a mass phenomenon. Membership in organizations dedicated to the conservation, preservation, and restoration of wildlife soared. As public interest increased in America, legislative action, such as the passage of the Wilderness Act (1964), the National Environmental Policy Act (1969), and the Endangered Species Act (1973), followed. Such laws, and similar ones passed in other nations, are the cornerstone of wildlife protection.

Wildlife in the New Millennium

As the twenty-first century begins, our ideas of wildlife are being transformed through the advance of the natural and human sciences. Humankind has engendered a mass extinction event and caused "the death of birth" (i.e., disrupted the processes of speciation), thus creating uncertain prospects for plants and animals, and ourselves, over the millennium. Three pivotal themes stand out.

Economically considered, the value of nature, including the plant and animal species (the total number of which are unknown to the nearest order of magnitude), has been calculated to exceed the value of the artifice of the human economy by two to one. Potential uses of great significance in medicine and agriculture alone give ample reason to work toward international solutions for the biodiversity crisis.

Humanistically considered, interdisciplinary inquiry has established a close connection between the extinction of experience and the extinction of wildlife. Cultural diversity goes hand in hand with biodiversity. The almost unchecked processes of globalization, legitimated under the banner of progress, and euphemistically termed cultural homogenization and assimilation, are rushing literally thousands of indigenous cultures, their languages, and the associated wild places and things to extinction.

Finally, humankind vitally needs the others in ways that we barely comprehend. Our natural history reveals that continual close interactions with the plants and animals are the norm. The small interval of time beginning with the Neolithic revolution and continuing to the present is a mere moment in that long history. There is increasing agreement across a variety of scientific communities that we ignore our continued need for and value of the others at great peril.

See also Biology ; Ecology ; Environment ; Nature .


Ackerman, Diane. The Rarest of the Rare: Vanishing Animals, Timeless Worlds. New York: Vintage Books, 1997.

Crosby, Alfred W. Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 9001900. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

Grumbine, Edward. Ghost Bears: Exploring the Biodiversity Crisis. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1992.

Maffi, Luisa, ed. On Biocultural Diversity: Linking Language, Knowledge, and the Environment. Washington, D.C., and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001.

Matthiessen, Peter. Wildlife in America. 2nd ed. New York: Viking, 1987.

Mighetto, Lisa. Wild Animals and American Environmental Ethics. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1991.

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Shepard, Paul. The Others: How Animals Made Us Human. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1995.

White, Lynn, Jr. "The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis." Science 155 (1967): 12031207.

Max Oelschlaeger

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wild·life / ˈwīldˌlīf/ • n. wild animals collectively; the native fauna (and sometimes flora) of a region.

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wildlife Any undomesticated organisms, although the term is sometimes restricted to wild animals, excluding plants.

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wildlife Any undomesticated organisms, although the term is sometimes restricted to wild animals, excluding plants.

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wildlife Any undomesticated organisms, although the term is sometimes restricted to wild animals, excluding plants.

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wildlifefife, Fyfe, knife, life, pro-life, rife, still-life, strife, wife •shelf-life • midlife • wildlife •nightlife • lowlife • afterlife •jackknife • penknife • paperknife •spaewife • alewife • midwife •fishwife • housewife • goodwife

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