Human-wildlife conflict has negative ecological, safety, economic, spiritual, and other impacts. Too often, responses to human-wildlife conflict lack innovative, nature-based, and non-lethal solutions. There is a need to develop innovative approaches such as new technologies, campaigns, strategies, inventions, etc., to reduce human-wildlife conflict in communities and on public lands.
Human-wildlife conflict: Human-wildlife conflict is increasing as human populations expand. Climate change continues to exacerbate human-wildlife overlap and competition. This conflict is exhibited in many forms including livestock predation, human safety, recreation/sporting activities, companion animal safety, development, transportation safety, wildlife crossing safety, home/yard nuisance, and gardening/agricultural losses. Historically, lethal means of controlling wildlife populations or removing specific individuals were broadly employed. However, such practices are becoming increasingly unpalatable given their many negative impacts (ecological, safety, financial, spiritual, etc.). Furthermore, human-animal compassion is growing across America such that many aspects of our culture are becoming less tolerant of lethal means for controlling wildlife.
Communities: Human-wildlife conflict frequently occurs within or adjacent to population centers in both rural and urban areas. The increasing encroachment into the wildland-urban interface from population increase and the effects of climate change increasingly results in human-wildlife conflict to varying degrees. Wildlife conservation efforts also necessitate innovation in nonlethal human-wildlife conflict management so that progress continues.
Human behavior: Recent advances in the behavioral and cognitive sciences, combined with interdisciplinary understanding from neuroscience to behavioral economics may provide a rich knowledge base from which to design human behavior change models. For example, rather than punitive enforcement approaches, nudge theory (i.e., the use of implicit suggestions and positive reinforcement to influence human behavior) has gained popularity (and critique) for its use of positive reinforcement of desired behaviors and implicit discouragement of undesired actions. Behavior change can be achieved through various approaches or combinations of approaches, from education and communication interventions, to tools that make a desired behavior easier or more likely. Although human behavior change is notoriously difficult to achieve on long-term scales, it is a relatively unexplored arena in human-wildlife conflict scholarship, which has focused more on tools (lethal and non-lethal) to deter wildlife away from humans. This lack of exploration suggests the potential for innovation with increased efforts and resources.
To win Theodore Roosevelt Genius Prize Competition for Nonlethal Management of Human-Wildlife Conflict participants must submit their solution that addresses:
(a) Facilitating human-wildlife coexistence and/or
(b) Proactively deterring human-wildlife conflict.
Priority focal areas needing solutions could include:
Toxicants- Such as when broadly used for lethal control in the mitigation of some human-wildlife conflicts cause tremendous damage to ecosystem services, health of wildlife, and ultimately humans; and
Extractive industries- Such as timber harvesting or mining that may employ lethal outcomes, or have unintended lethal outcomes to wildlife with severe ecological, safety, economic, spiritual, and other impacts.