The Controversial Aspect of Wildlife Management: Case Studies from Delaware

Wildlife agencies are challenged to conserve wildlife populations while supporting a persistent recreational and commercial demand for the resource. Conservation of some populations may require harvest restrictions to prevent over-exploitation. Hunting restrictions are often unpopular and create confrontations between user groups and wildlife agencies. The success of conservation measures, however, rests on shaping public opinion to accept reductions in consumptive use of the resources. I discuss 2 case studies in Delaware regarding confrontational responses to harvest restrictions placed upon 2 popular species, the Northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) and the Canada goose (Branta canadensis). Most sportsmen and conservation groups supported agency actions, while a determined influential minority contested imposed restrictions and worked persistently to eliminate them. Opposition arguments were predicted on 3 common attitudes: provincialism or denial of a resource problem, misunderstanding of information and issues, and a general distrust for biologists and scientific data. Educational mitigation efforts (e.g., seminars, public hearings, increased public involvement in resource planning) and research diffused opposition arguments and generated support for agency action. Delaware examples may provide useful insight for other wildlife agencies facing similar resource management problems.

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