Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



The 21st century is witness to an unprecedented and rapid growth of human settlements, from urban centers to wilderness vacation resorts. Concurrent with this has been the growing tolerance and acceptance of many wild animals and humans for one another. This has created an expanding ‘zone’ of human-animal contacts, some number of which invariably result in conflicts. While the vast majority of our interactions with wild animals are undoubtedly benign, it is the conflict between wildlife and people that draws particularly close attention from the public. Animals viewed as vertebrate “pests” range from the small to the large, the timid to the fierce, and the benign to the dangerous. With respect to all is the issue that bridges both environmental and social concerns– what is the ‘right’ thing to do about resolving conflicts? Wildlife agencies in North America continue to stress traditional approaches to managing wildlife problems by focusing on regulated hunting, trapping, and poisoning. Yet contemporary human-wildlife conflicts have scientific, political, and moral dimensions that are not well addressed by those traditions. Controversy and polarization arise from differing ethics of how we ought to live with non-human animals. Wildlife protection interests argue that many common and current wildlife control practices, such as the drowning of “nuisance” animals, are ethically ungrounded. A practical ethic guiding our response to human-animal conflicts is, they argue, therefore needed. This ethics should inform “pest” control policy and management, as well as articulate a vision of our place in a mixed community of people and animals. This paper explores this need.


Paper presented at the 22nd Vertebrate Pest Conference (March 5-8, 2012, Monterey, CA)