Hen harriers and red grouse: science, politics and human-wildlife conflict.
Human-wildlife conflict is an emerging issue in global conservation. The expansion of human activities throughout the world, combined with restoration of wildlife populations, has led to increased contact and greater conflict between people and wildlife. The mitigation of human-wildlife conflict requires ecological research, social research, and dialogue between scientists, stakeholders and policy-makers to guide management. However, conflict mitigation may be politically sensitive, particularly when legal issues are involved and human livelihoods are at stake. In such cases, political pressures may override scientific evidence. Conflicts over predator management are particularly revealing about the roles of science and politics in the mitigation of human-wildlife conflict. We focus in detail on one well-studied conflict between raptor conservation and grouse management in the UK. Research has demonstrated: (i) there is widespread illegal killing of raptors; (ii) raptor predation can limit grouse populations and reduce hunting revenues; and (iii) mitigation techniques are available but are either unacceptable to stakeholders or unproven in the field. Despite the scientific advances, mitigation of this conflict has been slow. We explore the scientific, political and social barriers to finding a sustainable solution. We suggest that the entrenched positions of stakeholders are the main barrier to progress. We propose a way forward that, if successful, would lead to a win-win situation for raptor conservation and grouse management. Synthesis and applications. The mitigation of human-wildlife conflict requires evidence-based management. Scientific evidence is insufficient, however, if the political will is lacking to find solutions. Mitigation of the conflict between raptors and grouse requires both natural and social science research and the recognition that compromises are required to achieve sustainable solutions. These lessons apply equally to human-wildlife conflict situations elsewhere.