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Visitor Impacts to Wildlife and their Management Jeff Marion, Unit Leader Cooperative Park Studies Unit Virginia Tech/Dept. of Forestry Patuxent Wildlife.

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Presentation on theme: "Visitor Impacts to Wildlife and their Management Jeff Marion, Unit Leader Cooperative Park Studies Unit Virginia Tech/Dept. of Forestry Patuxent Wildlife."— Presentation transcript:

1 Visitor Impacts to Wildlife and their Management Jeff Marion, Unit Leader Cooperative Park Studies Unit Virginia Tech/Dept. of Forestry Patuxent Wildlife Research Center

2 Presentation Objectives < 1. Provide a review of visitor impacts to wildlife. < 2. Review the range of management actions available to avoid or minimize wildlife impacts.

3 Resource Protection and Recreation Provision: The Dual Mandates The National Park Service shall:... promote and regulate the use of the... National Parks... to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects … by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations. NPS Organic Act of 1916 Mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System: To administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats … for the benefit of present and future generations… National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997

4 Recreational Use: Potential for Wildlife Disturbance Wildlife-related recreation – Participation in wildlife watching (feeding, observing, photography) increased 63% from 1980 to Fishing participation increased 12% and hunting participation decreased 8%. (USFWS data, 1999)

5 Non-consumptive Recreation: A Misnomer ? < Consumptive: Hunting/fishing: direct removal of wildlife. < Non-consumptive: Hiking, wildlife viewing, etc.: many indirect and some direct impacts to wildlife. < Implications – Substantial increases in non- consumptive recreation require an expansion of visitor and resource management efforts targeted towards reducing wildlife impacts.


7 Visitor Impacts to Wildlife Habitat alteration Wildlife disturbance / harassment Modification of wildlife behavior Displacement: food, water, cover Reduced health & reproduction Increased mortality

8 Potential Impacts of Non- Consumptive Recreation < Habitat Modification – alteration of wildlife habitat through vegetation or soil disturbance. Examples: Loss of trees, shrubs, or groundcover, vegetation compositional changes, loss of organic litter, compaction and erosion of soil Locations: Recreation facilities, trails, campsites, wildlife viewing areas

9 Potential Impacts of Non- Consumptive Recreation < Disturbance / Harassment – events which cause excitement and/or stress, disturbance of essential activities, severe exertion, displacement, and sometimes death. Examples: ÍUnintentional – Hiking and camping in areas of critical wildlife habitat. ÍIntentional – Snowmobilers chasing deer, photographers pursuing wildlife subjects.

10 Potential Impacts of Non- Consumptive Recreation < Wildlife Feeding – establishment of unnatural and unhealthy food dependencies that may alter wildlife behavior or populations. Examples: Í Unintentional – Campground food scraps, poorly stored food obtained by bears. Í Intentional – Feeding deer or campground chipmunks and birds.

11 Recreation Impacts: Consequences for Wildlife Alteration of Behavior – animals may modify their daily activities. < Avoidance – development of a negative association with humans. < Habituation – waning of response to repeated disturbance, not associated with a positive reward. < Attraction – development of a positive association with humans because of rewards (most frequently food related).

12 Recreation Impacts: Consequences for Wildlife < Displacement – animals are forced away from preferred habitats either during certain times (temporal displacement) or in certain places (spatial displacement). < New habitats are unfamiliar, often have lower quality food and cover, or increased competition and predation.

13 Recreation Impacts: Consequences for Wildlife < Alteration of Wildlife Populations and Species Composition – decreased natality and increased mortality may affect wildlife population structure and size. Species may become locally extinct or new species, possibly non-natives, may move in.

14 Wildlife Responses to Recreation < Wildlife responses to recreation activities are highly variable, dependent upon recreationists behaviors, the context of disturbance, and learned responses. < Responses are often inconsistent, even within a single species and population, e.g., flight distances of peregrin falcons in New Mexico varied by a factor of 22. < Entire populations can be affected by single disturbance events, e.g., colony abandonment of a rookery.

15 Wildlife Responses to Recreation < Recreationists Behaviors – most wildlife can tolerate or adapt to repetitive activities that pose no threat. The frequency, magnitude, duration, type, and timing of recreationists behaviors are important elements. ÍUnexpected, loud noises and rapid movements elicit the greatest responses. ÍTravel in the direction of wildlife elicits a greater response than travel away from or parallel to wildlife.

16 Wildlife Responses to Recreation < Context of Disturbance – wildlife reactions to recreational disturbances are guided by contextual influences: season of year, location, availability of cover, and wildlife vulnerability. < Severity of recreational disturbance is greater: ÍIn the wintertime when food availability is low and energy expenditures are high, ÍIn seasons when animals are breeding, nesting, birthing, and raising young, ÍDuring hunting seasons when animals are more wary.


18 Management Interventions - Overview < Spatial and temporal zoning < Visitor concentration vs. dispersal < Design and provision of facilities < Visitor education < Regulations and enforcement

19 Management Interventions – Spatial and Temporal Zoning < Spatial Zoning – Use education, facility location, and regulations to discourage or prohibit visitor use of critical or sensitive wildlife habitat. < Temporal Zoning – Establish area closures only during seasons or times when wildlife are particularly sensitive to disturbance.

20 Management Interventions – Concentrate or Disperse? < A containment strategy is generally more effective than dispersal in minimizing wildlife disturbance. ÍWildlife can adapt to consistent locations and patterns of visitor activity. ÍVisitor dispersal fragments wildlife habitat and causes greater wildlife disturbance.

21 Management Interventions – Recreation Facilities < Develop trails and recreation sites in locations least sensitive to wildlife disturbance. < Surface trails and sites and install site borders or fencing as needed to hinder off-trail traffic.

22 Management Interventions – Recreation Facilities < Provide wildlife viewing platforms, towers, or blinds to permit high quality low impact viewing. < Plant and manage vegetation to establish buffers between recreational sites and areas of sensitive wildlife habitat.

23 Management Interventions – Visitor Education < Visitor Education – Environmental education and interpretation programs can increase visitor knowledge, encourage favorable attitudes and ethics about wildlife protection, and promote adoption of low impact recreational practices. < Effectiveness studies: Í1) Personal communication Í2) Video / slide programs Í3) Brochures Í4) Signs

24 Leave No Trace, Inc. (LNT) Leave No Trace, Inc. (LNT) LNT, Inc. partners with federal land agencies, outdoor product manufacturers, retailers, outfitters, user groups and others to promote minimum impact messages for public and private lands. A non-profit organization whose mission is to promote and inspire responsible outdoor recreation through education, research and partnerships. Bureau of Land Management U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service National Park Service U.S. Forest Service

25 The Seven LNT Principles 1. Plan Ahead and Prepare 2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces 3. Dispose of Waste Properly 4. Leave What You Find 5. Minimize Campfire Impacts 6. Respect Wildlife 7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

26 Keep wildlife wild. Never feed wildlife or allow them to obtain human food or trash. Wildlife attracted to human food often suffer nutritionally and expose themselves to predators and other dangers. Respect Wildlife

27 Feeding wildlife destroys their health, alters natural behaviors, and teaches them life-threatening habits.

28 Respect Wildlife Wildlife cant read signs, but you can. Keep wildlife wild by not feeding them!

29 Respect Wildlife Bears that obtain food become problem bears that must be relocated or killed. Protect your food, hang bear bags or use bear-proof food canisters.

30 Respect Wildlife Enjoy wildlife at a distance. You are too close if your presence elicits a response from wildlife.

31 Management Interventions – Regulations and Enforcement < Visitor Regulation – Establishment and reinforcement of rules that directly modify visitor behavior to reduce visitor impacts to wildlife. < Regulations may be justified to prohibit: ÍRecreational activities in critical or sensitive areas ÍRecreational activities during sensitive times ÍFeeding of wildlife ÍPets running loose ÍWildlife harassment

32 The End The End Carrying Capacity: The Art of Avoiding Undesirable Future Conditions

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