NATURE NOTES - Number 8 November 13, 2020
Our current topic: Wildlife Management
Ok, here’s how it works. A wildlife manager meets all the deer, bear, raccoons, squirrels, birds, snakes, etc. down at the lake at 8 am each day and gives out the daily assignments: Ms. Bear, you go raid the trash cans at Camp Powhatan; Mr. Rattlesnake, you stay under a rock today – it’s hot; Mr. Raccoon, you are off-duty until dark. While that may not be quite right, how DO you manage wildlife? If you ask a scout, one might answer “you manage their habitat!” Good answer. There are lots of things wildlife managers can do to modify or improve the habitat that provide animals with food and shelter. Planting or encouraging certain plants that a specific animal species needs for food is a good example. What else can wildlife managers do? Second scout might answer: “Duh”. Ok, let’s help. How about setting policy that impacts wildlife, like hunting seasons, bag limits, bounties on undesirable species (coyotes), and rules on endangered species? Or what about doing research on wildlife diseases, breeding patterns, migration, and game population, to name a few. This research is often what is behind a policy implementation or change. Maybe the wildlife managers will stock streams with trout. (The state runs several fish hatcheries in our area) or reintroduce a species back into its native range such as the wild turkey years ago, or elk in far Southwest Virginia more recently. As I have said before, these are topics many scouts have no knowledge of or ever heard discussed.
So who does all of this? Usually the state, or sometimes the federal government. Colleges do a lot of the research. In Virginia, the Department of Wildlife Resources (until July 1, 2020 it was called the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries) is the agency doing these things. The conservation police (formerly called game wardens) are stationed around the state to enforce the policies and provide hunter and public education. There’s a state research station with a number of wildlife biologists in Blacksburg. Some of the state’s focus is on “game”, or wildlife that can be hunted, but also song birds, amphibians, reptiles, and endangered species come under their responsibility as well.
So who pays for all of this? Not the taxpayer. Surprised? In Virginia the revenue for wildlife management comes from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and grants from the federal government (paid for mostly by taxes on purchased hunting equipment). The federal agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, maintains many wildlife refuges, does research, and coordinates international and interstate issues. An example of the last is publishing rules on hunting of migratory water fowl. Ducks and geese flying along the Atlantic Flyway need the same protection in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, so the FWS handles this.
From all of this you can see there are a lot of things going on in the area of wildlife management. I’ve not covered fishing much here, but the idea is the same. The general public is not very aware of all this unless they are hunters. Neither are scouts, so go to work. You may find one that wants to be a wildlife manager one day.
Look at the requirements for Fish and Wildlife Management Merit Badge. A lot of these are addressed above. A good inexpensive publication for learning more is VIRGINIA WILDLIFE, a magazine published by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources. A lot of good material and pictures are there for scouts and adults. Call (800) 710-9369 for info. Also, next time you are in a place that sells hunting equipment (WALMART will usually work), ask them for a free copy of Virginia’s hunting regulations. You might be surprised at the detailed information in there pertaining to wildlife management. For example, when can you shoot feral hogs? A growing problem in Virginia that few know about.
Hope you have learned a little about wildlife management from this. Work it in to discussions with your scouts. THEY might learn something from you.