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Minimizing human-wildlife conflicts is goal of new MSU effort


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Posted: 1/6/2003


From corn crops destroyed by raccoons to deer vs. automobile accidents, human encounters with wildlife can range from annoying to downright dangerous.

To help minimize such conflicts, a new research and education effort at Mississippi State will work to identify and develop innovative solutions that allow humans and wildlife to coexist harmoniously. The university recently joined with the nationally recognized Berryman Institute for Wildlife Damage Management to draw on the expertise of faculty members throughout the country.

The Utah State University-based institute, which now designates MSU as its eastern unit, was established in 1993 and named for Utah native Jack H. Berryman, a 30-year U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service veteran. Berryman died in 1999.

"Over the last decade, the Berryman Institute has distinguished itself by developing research programs that provide more effective, environmentally friendly and socially acceptable ways of allowing wildlife to coexist with humans in an increasingly urbanized landscape," said Bruce D. Leopold, head of MSU's wildlife and fisheries department.

Nationally, human-wildlife conflicts annually result in more than 75,000 human injuries, 400 fatalities and $3 billion in economic losses, Leopold added.

MSU's department of wildlife and fisheries already has a national reputation for research, education and extension programs related to wildlife management in the eastern United States.

"Expansion of the Berryman Institute to include Mississippi State will enhance our ability to understand, integrate and address the complex, multi-faceted issues of wildlife damage management, Leopold said. MSU scientists are anticipating studies in such areas as coyote-livestock interactions, predators and aquaculture ponds, feral hogs, car-deer collisions, and the interference of airplane flights and landings by deer, seagulls and other animals, he explained.

Leopold said Berryman currently has faculty members working on more than 70 projects in 14 states. The affiliation with MSU will increase their research projects, particularly on human-wildlife interactions east of the Mississippi River.

While historical approaches to wildlife damage have focused on eliminating or reducing the problem species, Leopold said the Berryman Institute focuses on long-term strategies that benefit wildlife while reducing the potential damage and nuisance they can cause. It also provides education and outreach programs to help people better understand wildlife behavior.

"The institute's research, education and outreach goals are very compatible with those of Mississippi State's wildlife program, Leopold said.

The merger also will expand opportunities for inter-institutional, multi-disciplinary collaborations in research and outreach; learning opportunities for students; and workforce education for federal, state and private agencies.

"By enhancing the positive values of wildlife and alleviating human-wildlife conflicts, we can assure the best outcomes for humans and a brighter future for wildlife, Leopold said.

Wildlife and Fisheries