The USDA APHIS Wildlife Services (WS) Program conducts a Research Needs Assessment (RNA) about every five years to determine research priorities of internal and external stakeholders for managing conflicts between humans and wildlife. The results of the RNA, along with Congressional Directives, guidance from the WS Deputy Administrator, and stakeholder input, assist WS in establishing research priorities and allocating NWRC resources. This document reports on the results of the most recent WS RNA.
In 2011, a Research Needs Assessment (RNA) survey was sent to the directors of the WS Eastern and Western Regions, the NWRC, and the WS Operational Support Staff, as well as to the national coordinators of the WS Rabies, Wildlife Disease, and Airport Wildlife Hazards Programs. The directors and coordinators were asked to distribute the request throughout their organizations. A similar survey was distributed by the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service branch chiefs for all 50 states, and to non-federal stakeholders representing various livestock and agricultural commodity groups, universities, and non-government organizations.
Respondents completed open-ended and multiple choice questions related to (1) their top three research needs; (2) impacts of wildlife on production, economics, human health & safety, and/or property damage; (3) involvement as wildlife professionals in various areas of human-wildlife conflicts; (4) state or regional needs for research; and (5) the value of various consultations and services offered by the NWRC. A slightly modified form of the survey was distributed by AFWA to state fish and wildlife agencies and various private stakeholder groups.
According to the survey, the most frequently cited areas of concern were as follows:
The most frequently cited species or species groups in need of research included the following:
The most frequently cited tools or information-developmental needs were the following:
Aquaculture, human safety, property damage, vaccines, and repellents were less frequently identified as areas of research need.
Responses from WS Operations Eastern and Western Regions and the NWRC were consistent on the likely future importance of most human-wildlife conflict areas and the projected need for research to develop, improve, and/or evaluate different methods. However, several differences between the WS Western and Eastern Regions were evident. Predation on livestock (especially cows and sheep) and big game, waterfowl, and upland birds was a higher concern in the WS Western Region than the WS Eastern Region. A higher percentage of Western Region respondents also anticipated being involved in conflicts involving birds. Cormorants, beavers, deer, and especially vultures were of higher concern in the WS Eastern Region.
The majority of respondents to the AFWA survey consistently identified habitat destruction, threatened and endangered species, and livestock diseases as the areas of most concern. Human-wildlife conflicts related to agriculture, human health, automobile safety, transportation infrastructure were less frequently cited as areas of concern.