The seventh edition of The Wildlife Techniques Manual continues one of The Wildlife Society's standard-bearing publication series in a most impressive fashion. For those unfamiliar with this book series, it began as the Manual of Game Investigational Techniques, first published in 1960. Although no two subsequent editions have shared the exact same title, the overarching theme of “the Manual” (as it has come to be known) has been to regularly update and summarize information on important technical and practical aspects of wildlife management for a professional audience ranging from novice to seasoned. The Manual is to North American wildlife managers what Fowler's Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine is to zoo veterinarians and what the “Iowa State/Wiley-Blackwell/Blackwell” wildlife disease series is to our broader Wildlife Disease Association membership.
This newest edition of the Manual spans two volumes for the first time in the series' history. The 22 chapters in the 686-page Volume 1 focus on “Research” techniques, while the 15 chapters in the 414-page Volume 2 focus on “Management” techniques. Chapter numbering is sequential across the two volumes, underscoring the considerable interdependency of the respective texts. The individual volumes cannot be purchased separately, at least from commercial sources. Although anyone who has lugged around the entire tome for more than a few minutes appreciates the need to physically partition this latest installment of the Manual, the “research” and “management” monikers should not be taken too literally: many of the topics covered in the more expansive “research” volume—including wildlife capture and handling, determining sex and age, marking, inventory methods, and even disease surveillance—are mainstays of day-to-day “management” activities, at least for agencies like my own. I make this point not as a criticism, but rather as a means of reassuring the first-time reader/user that (for the most part) whatever wildlife technique you are looking for is in here—somewhere. Because the two volumes are not cross-referenced (and this is a small criticism), both indices do need to be checked for a key word or topic before giving up the search. The rather obscure rationale for apportioning topics makes more sense in the context of the two main academic uses for the Manual (explained in the Preface): in courses on wildlife research techniques and in courses on wildlife habitat management techniques. It follows that students enrolled in a course on wildlife habitat management research should plan on carrying both volumes to class every day.
The Manual serves a dual purpose as both a teaching and a reference text. In addition to the published text, supplemental materials are available online (http://joomla.wildlife.org/techniquesmanual/). These materials seem primarily geared toward teaching applications as this series has been widely used in wildlife management–related curricula throughout the United States for decades, but may be of some interest or use to other readers. (Note: Two of these are huge files—over 100 Mb each—so plan accordingly for downloading.)
As has been the tradition throughout the series, this seventh edition of the Manual updates and expands upon previous editions. The text includes 30 revised chapters and seven that are new to this edition; two of the “revised” chapters were resurrected from earlier editions after a hiatus from one or more recent editions. Contemporary authors use text and figures from preceding editions freely, affording long-time or returning readers some familiarity and continuity over the years. I instantly recognized several of the sketches still used in the chapter (8) describing criteria for determining the sex and age of various birds and mammals from my 32-yr-old fourth edition. However, new diagrams, photos, and tables have been added to enhance and broaden the topical coverage of the most recent text. In some contexts, authors refer to previous editions of the Manual that provide more detail on a particular subject; for example, designs and operational details of various traps are described in far greater depth in the early editions (and have not changed appreciably since), so chapters from those editions are heavily referenced in the latest coverage of capture and handling techniques (Chapter 4). Although both understandable and necessary given space limits and the ever-expanding amount of material that must be covered, the reliance on earlier versions could frustrate readers without access to those editions. Perhaps at some point in the future the entire series will be available electronically. Until then, those still wanting the specifications and materials list for a homemade box trap may need to find a used early edition of the Manual.
For Journal of Wildlife Diseases readers, this new edition of the Manual could be a valuable and remarkably complete one-stop reference on the myriad technical aspects of contemporary wildlife management. I found the text generally accessible, with careful attention given to defining terms, illustrating key concepts, and summarizing important details in useful tables. In general, the “Research” volume probably will be most often used by the majority of us because it covers mainstay topics like study design and analysis, hands-on (and hands-off) techniques, and approaches for monitoring and measuring wildlife populations and habitats. Respective chapters not only provide remarkably fine detail, but also synthesize and cite supporting literature that can offer greater depth for those interested. Although the “Management” volume may seem a bit less interesting to those immersed in the study of wildlife diseases, the chapters on human dimensions, adaptive management, and various aspects of population management should be read by all of us because they offer important insights into the broader context of the work we do. All of this being said, the Manual definitely represents a North American (and US-dominated, at that) perspective on wildlife management techniques: of the 119 contributors, all but two (Canadians) are from the United States, mostly from academic institutions. Regardless, the driving concepts if perhaps not the fine details of wildlife management embodied by the Manual should transcend international boundaries and apply to some extent on every continent where our members work and study.
Although this latest edition of the Manual left a favorable impression overall, I can nonetheless see a few opportunities for improvement in the eighth edition. The two-volume format seems likely to be a lasting institution given the expanse of material to be covered, but hopefully the next iteration will allow readers to move between volumes more readily by using a single, common subject index. Also, continuous page numbering (which follows logically from the continuous chapter numbering already in use) would make this a (relatively) simple undertaking. For my taste, references at the end of each chapter would be more useful than a single (really, really long) common Literature Cited section at the end of each volume; I found the present arrangement cumbersome and quickly abandoned my usual practice of checking out unfamiliar references as I read. In terms of content, I was most surprised (and disappointed) that the subject of animal welfare was not mentioned once in the chapter on “Research and Experimental Design”; this perhaps reflects the authors' or editor's views on the topic, but it is a disservice to students and other readers to ignore this important facet of contemporary wildlife research planning and conduct (not to mention publishing!). Finally, a contributor pool that provides a somewhat broader first-hand perspective on wildlife management practices outside the United States could lead to a more globally useful Wildlife Techniques Manual.
The Wildlife Techniques Manual 7th Edition seems reasonably priced for a two-volume set. Wildlife Society members can receive a 25% discount on the cover price from the publisher, and discounted prices may be available from other outlets as well. No softcover version appears to be available. Amazon offers a “Kindle Edition” for considerably less than the list hardback list price, but I have no first-hand experience with that format. But given the mass of the hardbound set, an electronic version could offer notable advantages, especially if text references were linked to the Literature Cited section at the end of each volume.
In all, this latest edition of the Manual offers those of us in the wildlife health and disease business a useful, contemporary, relatively comprehensive, and affordable reference text with insights into the broader pursuit of wildlife management, albeit largely as practiced in North America. The two-volume set is impressive on the bookshelf, and even more impressive as a testament to how far the techniques widely used in wildlife management have come in a few short decades.