Oral Presentation- Symposium 12th International Mammalogical Congress

The North American model of wildlife conservation: Through the eyes of the North American river otter (#24)

Thomas Serfass 1
  1. Frostburg State University, Frostburg, MD, United States

Over the last decade the so-called “North American model of wildlife conservation” (NAM) has been widely portrayed as both a historical account of how wildlife was conserved in North America in the past and a prescriptive model for how wildlife should be conserved in the future. NAM is comprised of 7 primary elements, each depicted in a manner that supports and justifies recreational hunting and trapping as the “cornerstone” of wildlife conservation in North America. We are both intrigued and concerned that a hunter/trapper-centric approach has been put forth (marketed) as the primary dictum defining wildlife conservation. The basic precepts of NAM largely have been embraced within the wildlife profession in the United States (US), despite the general absence of meaningful scrutiny to assess the appropriateness of a hunter-centric approach for addressing the entirety of complex issues facing wildlife conservation issues in North America and beyond. We critically review NAM and its 7 elements in the context of conserving the North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) in the US, with particular focus on 3 of NAM’s core elements: 1) wildlife as a public trust resource; 2) science as the basis for implementing conservation practices; and 3) elimination of markets for wildlife. Important to our discussion is a review of how science can be applied (sometimes inappropriately) to further specific management goals/agendas pertaining to the river otter. We argue that wildlife conservation is hindered and the “public trust” compromised when science and marketing are inappropriately integrated to achieve predetermined management outcomes.