boone and crockett club position statementPREDATOR MANAGEMENT
Accommodating and maintaining appropriate populations of predator species such as wolves, bears, cougars, and coyotes, is one of the most complex issues in North American wildlife conservation today. These predator species exist near or at the top of ecosystem food chains. They have few natural predators themselves, so their numbers are dictated primarily by available food, suitable habitats, and human-caused mortality. As a result, where their prey exists in abundance, predator populations have potential to attain high numbers that brings them into conflict with humans and management goals for other native wildlife species.
Unlike other mammals, predators are efficient killers of a wide range of prey species, including domestic livestock, family pets, and even humans in rare cases. These conflicts are on the rise as predator populations increase in shared habitats. Wolves and grizzly bears are expanding and dispersing into new areas, many of which are occupied by people. Cougars are also recolonizing areas where they have not recently occurred, and the coyote is now found in all of the Lower 48 states, Alaska and throughout Canada. People who live in landscapes with predators often support their existence and tolerate their presence, but want their numbers managed to mitigate impacts on native wildlife populations, their livelihoods, personal safety and the safety of their pets and livestock. Other people strongly feel that predators should be left alone and not managed by humans in any way.
These differing views have led some people to use legislative and legal methods to support their positions, such as seeking indefinite protection for predator species under federal laws like the Endangered Species Act. Many are disregarding or manipulating relevant scientific findings to block state/provincial management of predators, including the elimination of hunting as a proven and reliable form of management. In promoting the conservation of wildlife and its habitats, especially big game, the Boone and Crockett Club is concerned with philosophies or actions that would inhibit the successful conservation and management of large predators and the prey species upon which they rely.
The Boone and Crockett Club supports maintaining viable populations of all wildlife, including predators, where naturally occurring, legally reintroduced, or established through natural range expansion. Management models for predator conservation should take a landscape perspective that embraces wilderness areas where these species can exist with minimal human influence, as well as multiple-use landscapes where interactions with humans will be more common and management of predator numbers will be required. The needs of human communities and enterprise must be conscientiously considered in formulating wildlife policies in shared human-wildlife landscapes. This is not the same as being anti-predator; rather it is a means of finding a way for predators and human communities to co-exist.
The Club believes the best conservation outcomes for predatory species will be achieved by following a proven and balanced model of wildlife conservation that is supported by active management of ecosystems and science-informed decisions. This includes sustainable, regulated hunting as an acceptable method for predator management, where and when justified. One example would be where predator numbers are threatening existing conservation programs for other species.
The complex nature of ecosystems, including the behavior and ecological requirements of predator species themselves, necessitates that decisions be informed, wherever possible, by legitimate, peer-reviewed science. Acquiring and applying knowledge through science-based approaches enables professionally-trained conservation practitioners to improve wildlife policies and test their conservation outcomes in ways that popular opinion does not. This is what distinguishes professional wildlife managers—they rely on science to focus on what is good for predators and prey—as well as manage the expectations and needs of the people who live near these species.
The Club supports the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA) and encourages the use of preservation and protection methods as tools of conservation where necessary and appropriate to render a species no longer in danger of extinction. The Club opposes misuse of the ESA to achieve indefinite protection and block management of predatory species when strong scientific evidence demonstrates listing is not warranted or population recovery goals have been met. The Club also rejects the argument that an ESA delisting of a predator species will result in excessive or indiscriminate harvest because of the fact professional wildlife management of delisted species will continue and ensure they are not re-listed.
In the Club’s view, the most significant factor influencing the conservation and future of predatory species will not come from new laws or court decisions, but from obtaining support from those who are most affected by the existence of predators—namely, those who live closest to them.
This position supersedes the prior position statements of the Boone and Crockett Club on Mammalian Top Predators, and Northern Gray Wolves
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