People and wildlife can come into conflict in several different ways, each with their own challenges. Here are the most common conflicts Defenders works to help prevent.
Attacks on Livestock
In many states, ranches exist in areas of prime habitat for ecologically important predators, like wolves and grizzly bears in the Northern Rockies, and panthers in Florida. As a result, sometimes these native animals prey on livestock, although evidence has shown that these incidents make up a small percentage of the total losses.
Competition for Natural Resources
Many grasslands are prime habitat for prairie dogs but are also used by ranchers for livestock grazing. Coastal areas provide important sea turtle nesting sites, but they’re also in high demand by commercial developers. The recreation industry wants access to important habitats for threatened species like wolverines (snowmobiling) and manatees (boating). And some hunters perceive top carnivores as competition for elk, deer and moose, although the impact is often overstated.
Public Nuisance and Safety Issues
As our communities continue to expand and wildlife habitat shrinks, we will encounter more wild animals trying to survive in our midst. For example, some animals like bears and raccoons wander into town or campsites looking for food, while polar bears have been moving further inland as sea ice is disappearing. Wildlife-vehicle collisions alone account for more than 200 human deaths and 1.5 million animal deaths every year. And although attacks on people or pets are very rare, the risk to public safety increases as wild animals become habituated to living near populated areas.
All of these conflicts are real and need to be addressed. Unfortunately, it’s the wildlife that loses out when we turn to lethal control as a quick fix instead of pursuing long-term solutions that benefit people and wildlife. The reality is that wild animals have far more to fear from us than we have from them.