Evaluating population management scenarios: Crunching the numbers before going to the field
Efforts to mitigate wildlife-human conflicts typically involve management of unacceptably abundant populations. Increasingly, however, reduction of dense or increasing populations of certain wild species evokes both support and contention from the public. Management decisions involving population reduction, particularly those directed at highly visible species, should therefore be based on quantitative evaluation of potential outcomes prior to implementation. The purpose of this paper is to revisit a call for use of population modeling in management decisions by reviewing basic aspects of population analysis and the use of publicly available long-term data sets in environmental assessments and impact statements. Our objectives are to discuss 1) the relationship of population parameters to population growth, 2) methods of population projection, 3) use of data for model calibration and validation, and 4) the evaluation of management scenarios. Justification and defense of lethal or reproductive control programs to solve vertebrate pest problems requires a sound understanding of population status and the dynamics of the problem species.