Transforming to Interdisciplinary Wildlife Coexistence Management

Organizers: Suzanne Stone, The International Wildlife Coexistence Network; Louise Boronyak, The International Wildlife Coexistence Network

We are living in a time when our actions are driving the loss of wildlife and wild places faster than any time in human existence. If we continue this path, many wildlife species, their diverse habitats, and ecological functions will be almost certainly lost forever. Wildlife in conflict or competition with humans are often killed, or their habitat destroyed, often to provide products and services for people. This approach goes against biodiversity conservation, can cause needless suffering, and erodes the foundations of food security, health, and quality of life worldwide. Yet our current wildlife management programs still reflect the archaic systems that led us to this point. Proactive non-lethal solutions to human-wildlife conflicts have been successfully used worldwide, but their wide-scale adoption remains limited because destructive practices remain common and institutionally entrenched. This session explores new pathways forward, underscores the critical nature of this transformation, and provide examples of new approaches in wildlife management that can best meet the needs of protecting biodiversity from the local to global perspectives.  

Minimally Non-Anthropocentric Decision-Making: What Is It, Is It Necessary, and Can It Avert the Biodiversity Crisis?
John Vucetich
An important line of scholarship concludes that stemming the biodiversity crisis requires widespread nonanthropocentric modes of action and decision-making. I review that line of thinking. An obstacle to nonanthropocentric decision-making (NADM) knowing what would even count as NADM. I provide a possible framework for NADM by drawing on recently published research that lies at the intersection of ethics, economics, and theories of distributive justice. I also provide examples where economists have begun to exercise such decision-making. And, I explain how the virtues of need, equity, equality, and entitlement – cornerstones of distributive justice – are applicable not only to relationships among humans, but also between humans and nature. Finally, NADM also requires a better account for how public decisions affect human well-being.
Changing Public Values and Wildlife Agency Relevance
Ruth Musgrave
State Fish and Wildlife Agencies have historically managed wildlife largely to conserve and populate game animals and fish that are hunted, trapped or fished. Most agencies still receive the majority of their funding from fish and game licenses and tags, as well as from federal monies from firearms and boating gear. The agencies were originally established at hunters’ urging to help conserve the remaining wildlife that was being slaughtered by an expanding human population that was killing animals either for food or to get them out of their way. After more than a hundred years, this pattern of funding and managing largely for game is leaving fish and wildlife agencies in crisis. Agency responsibilities are spiraling exponentially, while funding remains stagnant or is even falling. Climate change, declines in nongame species, exploding invasive species, growing nonconsumptive outdoor recreation, and habitat loss present some of the growing issues that often fall by default on the fish and wildlife agencies to manage. Something has to give. Over the last five years, there has been some movement by state fish and wildlife agencies to contemplate their own relevance in a fast-changing world and changing American values toward wildlife. A Blue Ribbon Panel and report, a Relevancy Roadmap, and other developments have motivated some states to start to make changes in their agency’s direction, commissions, funding and planning. In addition, bills in Congress such as the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, or RAWA, seek to fund state agency conservation of nongame species through State Wildlife Action Plans.  State legislatures are also stepping up to advance changes in state fish and wildlife agencies that will help bring the agencies into the 21st century and allow them to serve all wildlife for all citizens.
New Wildlife Management Technologies: Using Embedded AI in Camera-Based Alert Systems to Prevent Human Wildlife Conflict.
Eric Dinerstein
Human-wildlife conflict (HWC) is a major driver of global population declines of large carnivores and mega-herbivores. Livestock depredation and crop raiding by wildlife threaten community livelihoods and safety, often prompting retaliatory killings of endangered wildlife. Conflict prevention should be a priority over post-hoc damage compensation, but current deterrence methods are often high maintenance, reactionary, and dependent on human vigilance. Few have the ability to reliably detect approaching wildlife and avert potential conflict situations. A long-term solution to the global HWC challenge calls for a low cost, autonomous system with early warning and deterrent capabilities to prevent conflicts before they occur. Here, we present WildEyes AI: a novel camera-based alert system that uses embedded Artificial Intelligence (AI) to prevent HWC. WildEyes AI is motion-triggered and runs AI models “on-the-edge” to accurately detect target wildlife species within captured images. When a target species is detected, alerts with images are sent to communities or park managers via cell, LoRa, or satellite networks. This enables rapid-response ranger teams to ward off approaching wildlife, or allows community members to protect themselves and their properties in advance. Speakers and strobe lights can also be equipped onsite to deter approaching wildlife and preempt conflict. WildEyes AI is low cost, cryptic, easy-to-use, fully autonomous 24/7, and operational in all data connectivity conditions. Currently, WildEyes AI offers over ten detectors for HWC-prone species—including wolves, bears, mountain lions, tigers, lions, and elephants—enabling it to be effectively deployed in HWC hotspots around the world with different wildlife assemblages. WildEyes AI can also enhance wildlife monitoring efforts by sending near-real time alerts of target wildlife species to researchers and park managers. We anticipate the large-scale application of this novel and affordable technology to substantially improve efforts to protect endangered wildlife and promote human-wildlife coexistence. 
Pathways Towards Coexistence with Large Carnivores in Production Landscapes
Louise Boronyak
Coexistence between livestock grazing and large carnivores in rangelands is a major challenge in terms of sustainable agriculture, animal welfare, species conservation and ecosystem function. Many effective nonlethal tools exist to protect livestock from predation, yet their adoption remains limited. Using a social-ecological transformations framework, we present a qualitative model of transformative change in rangelands grazing. The model was developed through in-depth interviews with 25 stakeholders representing livestock production, government wildlife agencies, and conservation NGOs drawn from Oregon, Montana, Idaho and California. The models articulate the current management paradigm of large carnivore management, drivers of change and essential pathways to transition away from routine lethal management of carnivores towards a mutually beneficial coexistence. The six pathways define broad actions that incorporate multiple values in grazing systems including changes to livestock management practices, financial support, industry capacity building, communication, research, improved governance and marketing initiatives. A key finding is the new concept of ‘Predator Smart Farming’, a holistic and conscientious approach to agriculture, which increases the resilience of landscapes, animals (domesticated and wild) and rural livelihoods. Implementation of these multiple pathways would lead to a future system that ensures thriving agricultural communities, secure livelihoods, reduced violence toward wildlife, and landscapes that are productive and support species conservation and coexistence. 
Transforming to a New Paradigm in Wildlife Management
Suzanne Stone
Wildlife management, as defined by Aldo Leopold and others, emerged in the 1920s as a system for balancing the needs of wildlife with the impacts of people as they cultivated the land. Much of the focus was on gamekeeping for the sake of hunting and largely to prevent the eradication of desirable hunted species. It was a reasonable approach given the abundance of wildlife and wild habitats. Today, biodiversity is declining increasingly rapidly, mainly due to the exponential growth of human populations across the planet. According to the 2020 UN global assessment of the state of nature, human pressure on 75% of the land and 66% of the marine environment, will result in one million plant and animal species driven to extinction, many within decades. Reliance on the same systems that have led to the current ecological crisis will only lead to greater impacts on resources such as agriculture and medicine that sustain our quality of life and will become increasingly difficult to resolve as the ecosystems are degraded.  It is crucial that wildlife management systems prioritize the survival of native species and their habitat wherever both are in jeopardy using the best available ecological and social science. Our approach to conflicts with nature must be transformed from just slowing the loss of biodiversity to building strong programs for adopting minimum coexistence standards and proactively restoring wildlife and wild habitats.  Wildlife programs must fundamentally shift from human-centric to biodiversity focused working with nature instead of against her.  The International Wildlife Coexistence Network can serve as a model for interdisciplinary teams’ approach to moving beyond traditional management systems to those that build sustainable outcomes that benefit both wildlife and local communities.  

Location: Virtual Date: November 2, 2021 Time: 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm