2016 Wildlife Services Research Needs Assessment: Feral Swine, Birds and Wildlife Diseases Top Lists
Every 5 years, WS conducts a research needs assessment to solicit internal and external feedback about the most pressing areas of need for methods evaluations, development and research. The assessment, along with Congressional Directives and decisions from the WS Deputy Administrator and the NWRC Director, helps to determine NWRC’s research focus, hiring priorities, and resource allocations.
In 2016 with the help of Mississippi State University’s Center for Resolving Human-Wildlife Conflicts, WS completed its fifth research needs assessment since 1992. Approximately 250 WS employees and external stakeholders were asked to identify their current and future wildlife research priorities, as well as the human-wildlife conflicts that cause the most economic and ecological impacts in their state or region (See table below).
External stakeholders included non-WS federal agencies and others with an interest in and/or knowledge of human-wildlife conflicts, including livestock, agriculture, forestry, aviation, and aquaculture industries; state and local governments; university research and extension personnel; non-government organizations; animal welfare and conservation groups; and the private pest control industry.
“Similar to past assessments, this year’s findings showed livestock predation, bird consumption of crops and farm-raised fish, aviation strike hazards, and invasive species continue to present management challenges,” notes NWRC Director Dr. Larry Clark. “Feral swine, urban wildlife conflicts, and wildlife diseases, such as avian influenza, chronic wasting disease, and pseudorabies, were listed as new or increasing challenges.”
Respondents in all groups expressed a concern about the loss of various pesticides for managing wildlife conflicts. Many respondents listed pesticides in general, without specifying any particular pesticide. DRC-1339 (avian pesticide) and M-44 (predacide) were most commonly mentioned as pesticides that are at risk of becoming unavailable.
Some of the new tools or technologies that survey respondents would like to see explored include the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance, damage assessments, and hazing; genetic techniques for monitoring populations and assessing damage; and further use of geographic information systems and computer modeling to address complex ecological problems.
As human populations and their impacts on the environment continue to grow, existing human-wildlife conflicts will also increase and new conflicts emerge. There is no one tool or method to resolve our wildlife challenges. With the exception of invasive species, most people value and want to preserve wildlife, while reducing their negative impacts.
“Because of this, we must find a balance in our search for effective, practical, and socially acceptable tools and methods to resolve human-wildlife conflicts. Research likely will play an increasingly important role in this search,” concludes Clark.
To read the full report, please visit USDA-WS Research Needs Assessment 2016 online.