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Wildlife biologists maintain and conserve Canada’s wildlife populations. They examine factors such as disease, nutrition, habitat relationships, and population dynamics. Wildlife biologists study the impact of environmental change on species survival and growth rates and the interactions between wildlife and their ecosystems, and they predict how land use decisions will impact wildlife and the ecosystems they depend on.
At a glanceImagine crouching behind a bush, doing your best to be still and quiet so as not to alarm the herd of elk 150 metres in front of you. With your binoculars, you study the group from your hiding place, carefully taking notes. You are a wildlife biologist and for the past few weeks, you have been surveying elk herds in the area to determine the health of the local population. Your department will use this information to determine how many elk hunting tags can be issued this year. Every year, thousands of hunters apply for a licence to hunt elk, but the existing populations can't sustain that many losses from their herds. You survey these populations to determine how many animals the population can afford to lose, which will determine how many hunters will be granted licences and allowed to hunt mature elk. As a wildlife biologist, you know how dangerous overhunting can be to wild game populations and how critical this survey is to the proper management of local elk herds. For the herd you're watching today, you count their numbers to measure the herd's size. But this alone won't tell you how many hunting tags can be issued this year. You must also look at the herd's makeup, which will indicate other factors that could be affecting the population. First, you count the number of males and females the herd will need a certain number of each in order to reproduce. You also look at the relative age of the elk, particularly how many mature animals there are, how many adolescents, and how many of last year's young have survived. There must be enough young elk to replace the older ones as they die. After gathering as much information as you can on the area's elk herds, you will compare that to data from years previous to get an indication of the population growth or decline. If the population is growing, you can use the information to determine how much hunting should be allowed.
Job dutiesDuties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a wildlife biologist:
- Plan and conduct population surveys.
- Research, make recommendations for, and supervise habitat restoration and the reintroduction of species.
- Manage endangered species populations, including conservation, protection, and rehabilitation.
- Evaluate federal and provincial wildlife programs.
- Review and conduct studies and provide information and expert testimony for ecological and environmental impact assessments.
- Provide technical expertise related to wildlife survey design.
- Collect data and analyze and prepare wildlife management plans and scientific reports.
- Monitor the status and trends of wildlife populations.
- Mitigate the impacts of development on wildlife habitat and resources.
- Participate in meetings with government agencies, consultants, and engineers.
- Resolve conflicts with competing issues and promote good conservation ethics.
- Set bag limits for hunted species.
Work environmentWildlife biologists work in a variety of locations, including: In the field:
- Studying wildlife populations, location data, behaviour, and habitat inventories, often under harsh conditions and difficult schedules
- Checking compliance with wildlife regulations
- Surveying areas from small airplanes or helicopters
- Supervising technical staff
- Analyzing data on the computer, including spatial mapping, statistical analysis, and GIS
- Using maps, aerial photographs, and other tools to design field data collection programs
- Responding to information requests from the public
- Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, government departments, colleagues, and experts in the field
- Researching new technology and studies in wildlife management
- Compiling data and preparing reports and scientific articles
- Processing samples collected in the field or turned in by the public
- Maintaining and preparing equipment for fieldwork
- Supervising technical staff
Where to workThere are a number of places wildlife biologists can find employment. They include:
- Federal, provincial/territorial, municipal, and Aboriginal government departments
- Colleges, universities, and research institutes
- Environmental and engineering consulting firms
- Natural resource and utility companies, for example logging, mining, and hydro
- Conservation authorities and centres
- Not-for-profit and non-governmental organizations
Education & requirementsIf you are a high school student considering a career as a wildlife biologist, you should have strong marks or an interest in:
- Wildlife Biology
- Conservation Biology
- Fish and Wildlife
- Environmental Science
- Habitat Restoration