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Large carnivores, moose, and humans: A changing paradigm of predator management in the 21st century

September 13, 2015

We compare and contrast the evolution of human attitudes toward large carnivores between Europe and North America. In general, persecution of large carnivores began much earlier in Europe than North America. Likewise, conservation programs directed at restoration and recovery appeared in European history well before they did in North America. Together, the pattern suggests there has been an evolution in how humans perceive large predators. Our early ancestors were physically vulnerable to large carnivores and developed corresponding attitudes of respect, avoidance, and acceptance. As civilization evolved and man developed weapons, the balance shifted. Early civilizations, in particular those with pastoral ways, attempted to eliminate large carnivores as threats to life and property. Brown bears (Ursus arctos) and wolves (Canis lupus) were consequently extirpated from much of their range in Europe and in North America south of Canada. Efforts to protect brown bears began in the late 1880s in some European countries and population reintroductions and augmentations are ongoing. They are less controversial than in North America. On the other hand, there are no wolf introductions, as has occurred in North America, and Europeans have a more negative attitude towards wolves. Control of predators to enhance ungulate harvest varies. In Western Europe, landowners own the hunting rights to ungulates. In the formerly communistic Eastern European countries and North America, hunting rights are held in common, although this is changing in some Eastern European countries. Wolf control to increase harvests of moose (Alces alces) occurs in parts of North America and Russia; bear control for similar reasons only occurs in parts of North America. Surprisingly, bears and wolves are not controlled to increase ungulates where private landowners have the hunting rights in Europe, although wolves were originally exterminated from these areas. Both the inability of scientific research to adequately predict the effect of predator control on ungulate populations and a shift in public attitudes toward large carnivores have resulted in an accelerating number of challenges to predator management in places where it is still espoused. Utilitarian attitudes towards wildlife are declining in Western cultures and people now increasingly recognize the intrinsic value of wildlife, including large predators. In the future, agencies responsible for managing resident wildlife will face increased pressure to balance the needs of the hunting public with the desires of non-hunting publics. We suggest that in the next century we will witness a continued shift in how wildlife agencies manage both moose and large carnivores. More attention will be paid to maintaining and restoring intact ecosystems and less toward sustainable yield of meat.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2003
Title Large carnivores, moose, and humans: A changing paradigm of predator management in the 21st century
DOI
Authors Charles C. Schwartz, J. E. Swenson, Sterling D. Miller
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Alces
Series Number
Index ID 70159929
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center