Competitive Exams: Wildlife Management

Wildlife management is the process of keeping some wildlife species at a desirable levels as determined by the wildlife managers and includes game keeping, wildlife conservation and pest control.

Wildlife management has become an integrated science using disciplines such as mathematics, chemistry, biology, ecology, climatology and geography to gain the best results.

Wildlife conservation takes takes into consideration ecological principles and environmental conditions such as carrying capacity, disturbance and succession with the aim of balancing the needs of wildlife with the needs of people. Most wildlife conservation is concerned with the preservation and improvement of habitats though increasingly reinstatement is being used. Techniques can include reforestation, pest control, nitrification and denitrification, irrigation, coppicing and hedge laying.

Game keeping is the management or control of wildlife for the wellbeing of game birds may include killing other animals which share the same niche or predators to maintain a high population of the more profitable species, such as pheasants introduced into woodland. Aldo Leopold, one of the pioneers of wildlife management as a science, defined it as “… The art of making land produce sustained annual crops of wild game for recreational use,” in his 1933 book titled: Game Management.

Pest control is the control of real or perceived pests and can be for the benefit of wildlife, farmers, game keepers or safety reasons.

In the United States, wildlife management practices are often implemented by a governmental agency to uphold a law, such as the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Many wildlife managers are employed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and by state governments. In the United Kingdom, wildlife management undertaken by several organizations including government bodies such as the Forestry Commission, Charities such as the RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts and privately hired gamekeepers and contractors. Legislation has also been passed to protect wildlife such as the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.


The profession of wildlife management was established in the United States in the interwar period (1920s − 1930s) by Aldo Leopold and others who sought to transcend the purely restrictive policies of the previous generation of conservationists, such as anti-hunting activist William T. Hornaday. Leopold and his close associate Herbert Stoddard, who had both been trained in scientific forestry, argued that modern science and technology could be used to restore and improve wildlife habitat and thus produce abundant “crops” of ducks, deer, and other valued wild animals.

The institutional foundations of the profession of wildlife management were established in the 1930s, when Leopold was granted the first university professorship in wildlife management (1933, University of Wisconsin, Madison), when Leopold's textbook ‘Game Management’ was published (1933), when The Wildlife Society was founded, when the Journal of Wildlife Management began publishing, and when the first Cooperative Wildlife Research Units were established. Conservationist planned many projects throughout the 1940's. Some of which included the harvesting of female mammals such as deer to decrease rising populations. Others included waterfowl and wetland research. The Fish and Wildlife Management Act was put in place to urge farmers to plant food for wildlife and to provide cover for them. Wildlife management grew after World War II with the help of the GI Bill and a postwar boom in recreational hunting. Since the tumultuous 1970s, when animal rights activists and environmentalists began to challenge some aspects of wildlife management, the profession has been overshadowed by the rise of conservation biology. Although wildlife managers remain central to the implementation of the ESA and other wildlife conservation policies, Conservation biologists have shifted the focus of conservation away from wildlife management's concern with the protection and restoration of single species and toward the maintenance of ecosystems and biodiversity.

Types of wildlife management

Types of wildlife management are:

  • Manipulative management acts on a population, either changing its numbers by direct means or influencing numbers by the indirect means of altering food supply, habitat, density of predators, or prevalence of disease. This is appropriate when a population is to be harvested, or when it slides to an unacceptably low density or increases to an unacceptably high level. Such densities are inevitably the subjective view of the land owner, and may be disputed by animal welfare interests.
  • Custodial management is preventive or protective. The aim is to minimize external influences on the population and its habitat. It is appropriate in a national park where one of the stated goals is to protect ecological processes. It is also appropriate for conservation of a threatened species where the threat is of external origin rather than being intrinsic to the system.


Wildlife management has been criticized by animal rights/animal welfare activists, environmentalists, and others who oppose hunting or other forms of direct human intervention into wild animal populations or habitats.

Animal welfare critics object to the cruelty involved in some forms of wildlife management. Ecological critics of wildlife management note that habitat manipulation and predator control are often used to increase populations of valuable game animals or birds (including introduced exotics) without regard to the ecological integrity of the habitat.

Management of hunting seasons

Wildlife management studies, research and lobbying by interest groups help designate times of the year when certain wildlife species can be legally hunted, allowing for surplus animals to be removed. In the United States, hunting season and bag limits are determined by guidelines set by the US Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for migratory game such as waterfowl and other migratory gamebirds. The hunting season and bag limits for state regulated game species such as deer are usually determined by State game Commissions, which are made up of representatives from various interest groups, wildlife biologists, and researchers.

Open and closed season on Deer in the UK is legislated for in the Deer act 1991 and the Deer Act (Scotland) 1996

Open season

Open season is when wildlife is allowed to be hunted by law and is usually not during the breeding season. Hunters may be restricted by sex, age or class of animal, for instance there may be an open season for any male deer with 4 points or better on at least one side.

Limited entry

Where the number of animals taken is to be tightly controlled, managers may have a type of lottery system called limited. Many apply, few are chosen. These hunts may still have age, sex or class restrictions.

Closed season

Closed season is when wildlife is protected from hunting and is usually during its breeding season. Closed season is enforced by law, any hunting during closed season is punishable by law and termed as illegal hunting or poaching.