Job Market Paper
Conservation of Charismatic Megafauna: Managing Mortality
Abstract: Grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are a classic multi-use resource. While some people value the chance to see the charismatic species in the wild, others suffer costly damages from grizzly bear-human conflicts. As the grizzly bear population has recovered from the brink of extinction, the number of damage incidents, including livestock depredations and human injuries, has significantly increased over time. There has been an increase in reactionary management along the grizzly bear recovery path. Agencies have been culling problem grizzly bears at higher rates while people have had to kill more grizzly bears in self defense. Controlling for the effects of climate and national park visitation, estimations show that higher grizzly bear population sizes lead to disproportionately higher rates of non-hunting mortality. To test whether the current reactionary management strategy is preferable to an active management strategy (in the form of a managed hunting program), a bioeconomic framework is employed. Results show that, given the current ban on hunting, grizzly bears will remain on the recovery path until a long-run equilibrium with a negative natural capital value of a live grizzly bear is reached. If the agency were to begin actively managing grizzly bears using hunting, a managed equilibrium with a positive natural capital value could be attained. A hunting program would not only lead to higher net benefits for society by transforming grizzly bears from pests into assets, but it could also reduce total mortality (because hunting reduces the amount of required culls and self-defense kills).
Yellowstone National Park, 2017