In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Wildlife Ecology

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Defining Wildlife Ecology
  • Historical Background
  • Population Ecology
  • Disease and Parasites
  • Harvesting

Ecology Wildlife Ecology
Mark S. Boyce
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 May 2012
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 May 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199830060-0002


Wildlife ecology began as applied science discipline during the 1920s and 1930s at the University of Wisconsin–Madison with the development of an academic program by Aldo Leopold. Wildlife ecology is the science behind the practice of wildlife management that seeks to manage wildlife populations for the benefit of humans. Although people enjoy viewing wildlife and hunting animals for food and fur, conflicts arise because wild animals kill livestock, cause vehicle collisions, and damage crops. Wildlife ecology has become progressively more quantitative, especially since the 1990s; even so, it still retains a strong orientation toward techniques with an emphasis on statistical methods rather than ecological principles. In the early 1980s the discipline of conservation biology emerged mainly because wildlife ecology was slow to embrace modern ecological theory and broader concerns for the preservation of biodiversity. Since then, however, wildlife ecology has converged as essentially a subdiscipline of conservation biology focused largely on the applied ecology and management of wild populations of birds and mammals.

General Overviews

Early emphasis was on managing populations and habitats to support recreational hunting. Modern views are well characterized in Sinclair, et al. 2006, still retaining the utilitarian values of wildlife but broadening to embrace the preservation of biodiversity, nonconsumptive uses of wildlife, and ecosystem management. Introductory courses in wildlife ecology at universities often use Sinclair, et al. 2006, but Bolen and Robinson 2003 and Krausman 2002 are also widely used. Online course work is available, including the South African Wildlife Campus. Deal 2010 is nicely done and is designed for conservation and agricultural professions but is unlikely to be used as a text at the university level because of its high price.

  • Bolen, Eric G., and William L. Robinson. 2003. 5th ed. Wildlife ecology and management. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

    An introductory text for beginning undergraduate courses in wildlife ecology. This text is not nearly as quantitative as Sinclair, et al. 2006.

  • Deal, Kevin H. 2010. Wildlife and natural resource management. 3d ed. Clifton Park, NY: Delmar.

    This text is designed for agricultural extension professionals, nature conservatory staff, and others who require up-to-date knowledge of conservation and environmental management.

  • Krausman, Paul R. 2002. Introduction to wildlife management: The basics. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

    As the title indicates, this is a textbook for an introductory course in wildlife ecology and management covering the history and evolution of wildlife management, conservation ideas, population dynamics, decimation and welfare factors, census terminology, the goals of management, and employment opportunities in the field.

  • Sinclair, Anthony R. E., John M. Fryxell, and Graeme Caughley. 2006. Wildlife ecology, conservation, and management. 2d ed. Oxford: Blackwell Science.

    Ecology textbook for undergraduates that integrates ecological principles with applications for wildlife conservation and population management. This is the most quantitatively rigorous of the alternatives.

  • Wildlife Campus.

    Web-based courses on wildlife ecology and management. Courses on a range of wildlife management topics are available either online or in traditional distance learning with correspondence by mail. Because these courses are from South Africa, several are quite specific to African applications, such as game guiding and elephant management. Fees for most courses are in South African currency.

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