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Promoting wildlife health or fighting wildlife disease: Insights from History, Philosophy, and Science

Authors

  • Shauna L. Hanisch,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, 13 Natural Resources Building, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA
    • Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, 13 Natural Resources Building, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA
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  • Shawn J. Riley,

    1. Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, 13 Natural Resources Building, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA
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  • Michael P. Nelson

    1. Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Lyman Briggs College, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA
    Current affiliation:
    1. Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA.
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  • Associate Editor: Guthery

Abstract

Although healthy wildlife populations are often a goal of wildlife management, ambiguity over the meaning of the term health may limit its effectiveness in guiding management objectives. Health is a complex concept with empirical and normative qualities; if it is to convey more than simply metaphorical value in wildlife conservation, clearer articulation of the meaning of wildlife health is needed. We provide a brief overview of the evolution of wildlife disease and health management; we discuss important philosophical themes relevant to developing a clarified understanding of wildlife health; and we share perspectives on wildlife health and disease from a Delphi exercise involving North American wildlife health professionals. The Delphi group conceptualized wildlife health as a multidisciplinary concept marked predominantly by population sustainability and resilience. Disease was considered to be a specific abnormal condition that is a part of the broader concept of health. We suggest improved integration of the descriptive and normative elements of wildlife health and greater inclusion of societal values in developing wildlife health objectives as a means to broaden the scope and effectiveness of wildlife health management. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.

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