Reducing wildlife damage and resolving human-wildlife conflicts through teaching, research, and extension.
Hot Topic: A recent paper published in Human-Wildlife Interactions provided new insights on the relationship between distance-related human-bison interactions and smartphones. Results indicated that people who always used a smartphone camera felt it was more acceptable to stand closer to bison than people who never used a smartphone camera.
The Berryman Institute is a national organization based in the Department of Wildland Resources at Utah State University. It is named after Jack H. Berryman to honor his distinguished career in wildlife management. The Berryman Institute is dedicated to improving human-wildlife relationships and resolving human-wildlife conflicts through teaching, research, and extension.
The Jack H. Berryman Institute (BI) was officially chartered by Utah State University in late 1994. The chartered mission of the BI was to improve human–wildlife interaction by reducing human–wildlife conflicts through research, teaching, outreach, and education. In 1994, the world population was estimated at 4.3 billion, and the first review of human injuries, illnesses, and economic losses caused by wildlife in the United States was completed. In 2019, the BI’s Human–Wildlife Interactions (HWI) published an updated review. Over the last 25 years, the one constant that has affected all human–wildlife conflict trends has been increased human population growth—our associated per capita consumption of natural resources.
This year marks the 26th year of the BI’s existence. In 2020, the world also witnessed first-hand just how globally connected and dependent we are on each other. The world’s population was estimated at 8 billion. The impact of this rapid growth was heralded with the COVID-19 pandemic (see HWI’s recent article) and punctuated with events and the call for global social change related to circumstances surrounding the death of George Floyd. These events further highlighted how humans globally are connected socially and economically, for better or for worse.
COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease. Although the total number of zoonoses is unknown, more wild animals are being implicated as reservoirs for zoonosis transmission to domestic animals and humans. The land-use change that accompany human population growth, the increased global transportation of wildlife and livestock and their products, and domestic and international travel increase the risk of new pandemics. In 2012, the BI published an HWI special issue on One Health and its role in mitigating the zoonosis outbreaks. One Health is a worldwide approach that recognizes that the health of people is closely connected to the health of animals and our shared environment. Public education and behavioral change are critical to successful disease intervention.
In 2019, to bolster BI outreach and engagement, we recruited Dr. Jessica Tegt. Dr. Tegt immediately made a huge impact as the coordinator for the Wild Pig and Bird Damage Conferences. In February 2020, the BI hosted a Bird Damage Management Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. The conference technical sessions were videotaped for live-streaming and can now be accessed online for viewing. In June 2020, the BI, in cooperation with the National Wild Pig Task Force, coordinated the first virtual Wild Pig Conference. The virtual Wild Pig Conference was launched in response to stakeholder requests when the on-site event was cancelled because of COVID-19. The BI, along with Utah State University Extension, coordinates the Free-roaming Equid and Ecosystem Sustainability Network. The FREES network seeks common ground to achieve the goal of “healthy herds on healthy rangelands through enhanced communication and the engagement of diverse stakeholder groups in meaningful dialogue.”
Our mission remains to promote a dialogue among wildlife professionals and their stakeholders concerning contemporary human–wildlife management issues. In doing so, we hope to provide a forum to shed some light on the uncertainty about how best to manage human–wildlife conflicts. This uncertainty exists not because we lack the management expertise or will, but more so because of public perceptions of the conflict and their acceptance of the management options. However, one thing is certain: for humans and wildlife to co-exist in a world where human population growth is increasingly encroaching into wildlife habitats, managers and stakeholders must be willing to engage in open and frank dialogue where human desires and the needs of wildlife are both considered. Wildlife professionals working at the interface where conflicts arise between people and wild animals have a responsibility in the long-term interest of sustaining society’s support for wildlife and its conservation by resolving human–wildlife conflicts so that humans continue to view wildlife as a valued resource.
We thank you for your continued support of the BI and our mission. We look forward to working with you to create a better informed and engaged human and wildlife conservation constituency. Please feel free to share your thoughts, ideas, or concerns with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Terry A. Messmer, Director