Job Market Paper
Managing mortality of multi-use megafauna
Enriquez, AJ and DC Finnoff
Status: Revised and resubmitted
Grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, currently listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, are a prime example of a multi-use species in that they induce both benefits and damages to people. As the grizzly bear population has increased over time, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of grizzly bear-human conflicts and non-harvest human-caused grizzly bear mortalities. Federal protections prevent “active” management (i.e., direct population control). Instead, wildlife managers rely on “reactive” management (i.e., indirect population control through conflict management). To shed light on when a recovery program ought to transition to active management, a bioeconomic model is constructed and parameterized with available data. A representative wildlife agency decides whether or not to enact active management by taking into account how stock-dependent benefits and damages adjust along the recovery path. Given the assumptions in the base case, the grizzly bear population has surpassed the size at which protections ought to have been removed. When a program of active management is a contentious and negotiated settlement with little flexibility, as is the case for grizzly bears, the natural capital value of a live animal may well be negative for an interval of time, during which it is optimal for society to continue conserving the species by developing a buffer. The results are sensitive to the institutional specifics and to the magnitudes of key human and ecological parameters.
Yellowstone National Park, 2017