Whether or not a particular action is appropriate or practical depends on a variety of factors, including the species causing damage, the type of damage and its geographic location, and laws and regulations. In general, three types of actions can be considered for resolving instances of animals damaging a resource.
One approach is to move the resource away from the animal causing damage. Moving sheep out of a pasture to reduce the likelihood of predation by coyotes or moving beehives to an area away from marauding black bears are examples of this approach.
A second possibility is to exclude an animal from the resource. Using scare tactics to keep birds away from crops or electric fencing to keep predators away from livestock are examples of this technique.
The third possibility is to relocate or remove the animal causing the problem. Snaring and removing a bear from a sheep allotment or trapping a coyote that has been killing calves are examples of this approach.
Often, the most effective strategy to resolve wildlife damage problems is to integrate the use of several methods or approaches, either all at once or in turn. This is known as integrated pest management (IPM). WS uses and recommends IPM to reduce damage by wildlife while minimizing any harmful effects of the control measures on humans, nontarget wildlife, domestic livestock, and the environment. IPM may incorporate husbandry techniques like shed lambing, modifying habitat (e.g., removing bird roosting cover adjacent to crops), or using trapping, snaring, or shooting methods.
WS personnel use and recommend the best methods available, but some of the methods currently used in wildlife damage control are not new. For example, cage and leghold traps have been used for hundreds of years. They continue to be important in wildlife management for situations where no other alternative is available. Leghold traps can be modified with padded or offset closures to make them more humane for target animals and to facilitate the release of nontarget animals back to the wild with little or no injury.
In selecting control techniques for specific damage situations, WS professionals consider the species responsible for the damage; the magnitude, geographic extent, duration, and frequency of the resource loss; and the likelihood of the conflict’s being repeated. In choosing a control technique, WS specialists consider the biological and legal status of the target species and potential nontarget species, local environmental conditions and possible environmental impacts, and the practicality of available control options.
The WS program does not exterminate native wildlife species because such efforts are contrary to WS policy, are biologically unwise and impractical, and are often illegal.
APHIS spends millions of dollars each year on research to develop and improve techniques for reducing wildlife damage. Most of this research is conducted by APHIS scientists at the National Wildlife Research Center, which is headquartered in Ft. Collins, CO, with 9 field stations throughout the United States. Major research activities include developing data to support Environmental Protection Agency registrations for pesticides and materials used to control vertebrates; developing nonchemical control techniques; evaluating the effectiveness and safety of new and existing control methods; studying the biology and behavior of wildlife species that cause damage; assessing wildlife damage; and providing scientific information on wildlife damage management to the WS program, other governmental agencies, and the public.