Examples of Wildlife Management in the National Park Service
One of the most endangered species in North America, the black-footed ferret, has been reintroduced to Badlands National Park and Wind Cave National Park. Historically, this member of the weasel family was found throughout the Great Plains, but came close to extinction due to disease and the widespread extermination of its primary food source, the prairie dog.
Some NPS units have problems with wildlife that have become food-conditioned. Animals from ground squirrels to bears can become a threat to human safety if they begin approaching humans for food in an aggressive manner. Never feeding wildlife, careful food storage, and proper disposal of trash are key to preventing food-conditioned wildlife. If prevention fails, more aggressive management actions may be required to protect human safety and return the “wild” to wildlife.
Planning and implementation of management actions to address overabundant wildlife populations is occurring in numerous National Parks. High concentrations of elk in wintering areas at Rocky Mountain National Park have contributed to severe degradation of vegetation in those areas which, in turn, has negatively affected the distribution of other wildlife species. Additionally, high elk density may contribute to a high prevalence of chronic wasting disease in the elk. Implementation of management actions can help restore ecosystems to natural function.
Non-native gemsbok, a large African antelope introduced on neighboring White Sands Missile Range, has had a large impact on vegetation on White Sands National Monument. After fencing the monument lands, gemsbok were removed through relocation to restore natural conditions in the monument.
In NPS Units where hunting is authorized it is a useful wildlife management tool. However, hunting only occurs if it is determined that harvesting will not unacceptably impact park resources or natural processes, including the natural distributions, densities, age-class distributions, and behavior of the harvested species as well as species that are directly impacted by the harvested species.
The NPS Organic Act and longstanding NPS policy allow hunting only where it is either mandated or authorized by federal statute. There are 61 park units that authorize hunting. These units are designated primarily as National Rivers, Lakeshores, Seashores, Recreation Areas, Preserves, and Monuments. Outside of Alaska, Congress has not allowed hunting in any unit which is designated as a National Park.
Wildlife Biologists may mark animals as part of research projects to increase knowledge and improve management. Radio-telemetry collars allow biologists to follow an animal's movements to learn about it habits, habitat use, and surviorship.