The Jack H. Berryman Institute (BI) was chartered by Utah State University’s Board of Trustees in 1994. We are named after Jack H. Berryman to honor his distinguished career in wildlife management. Our mission is improving human–wildlife interactions by reducing human–wildlife conflicts through research, teaching, outreach, and education. We are an international organization based in the Department of Wildland Resources at Utah State University.
In 1994, the world population was estimated at 4.3 billion. To provide our stakeholders with current information in 1994 regarding human-wildlife interactions, we published the first review of human injuries, illnesses, and economic losses caused by wildlife in the United States. In 2019 we published an updated review in Human–Wildlife Interactions (HWI).
In 2020, the world’s population was estimated at 8 billion. We also witnessed first-hand just how globally connected and dependent we are on each other when the COVID-19 pandemic (see HWI’s recent article) brought international travel and commerce to a standstill. The pandemic highlighted how humans globally are connected.
To date, science has cataloged 1,415 known human pathogens, of which 62% were of zoonotic origin. Most of the emerging infectious diseases (i.e., SARS, N1H1 influenza, West Nile Virus, hantavirus, Lyme disease) in humans are zoonoses. More wild animals are increasingly being linked in their epidemiology as major reservoirs for their transmission to domestic animals and humans.
Scientists have long warned that the rate of emergence of new infectious diseases is accelerating. 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. We however, even in 2012, we never anticipated the consequences and lingering effects of the current pandemic.
Microbial changes influence the epidemiology of zoonoses that have wildlife reservoirs. These changes include mutations, such as genetic drift and recombination in viruses, and transformations in bacteria that increase their resistance to vaccines. The risk of transmission of adaptive or genetically changed microorganisms from wildlife to humans, either directly or indirectly through domestic animals, is also increasing because of human-caused ecological changes. The ecological changes that are influencing the epidemiology of wildlife reservoir zoonoses include human population expansion and encroachment, reforestation and other habitat changes, pollution, and climatic change. The changes in land use that accompany human population growth, the increased global transportation of wildlife and livestock and their products, and increases in both domestic and international travel increase the risk of new disease outbreaks of pandemic scale.
Given these dramatic and complex events, our mission of promoting a dialogue among wildlife professionals and their stakeholders concerning contemporary human–wildlife interactions have increased relevance and importance. We exist to provide a forum to address the uncertainty about how best to improve human–wildlife interactions. This uncertainty we now face, exists not because we lack the management expertise or will, but more so because of public perceptions of the conflicts, their acceptance the responsibility, and science-based management options.
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.