Over several decades, animal welfare has grown into its own free-standing field of scientific study, from its early beginnings in laboratory animal research to eventually include exhibited animals and farm animals. While it has always been present to some degree, consideration of animal welfare for free-ranging animals has lagged behind, developing as a field of study in the last 20 yr or so. Part of that increase was that animal welfare legislation was finally applied to studies being done on free-ranging animals. But it is the appreciation by the biologists and veterinarians working on wild animals, in which the quality of their results is largely controlled by the quality of the animals they use in their studies, which has resulted in increased attention to the well-being or welfare of the animals that they use. Other important influences driving the recognition of wildlife welfare have been changes in the public's expectations of how wild animals are dealt with, a shift in focus of wildlife professionals from managing animals that can be hunted or angled to include nongame species, the decrease in participation in hunting and fishing by members of the public, and the entry of large numbers of women into fish and wildlife agencies and departments and into veterinary medicine. Technical improvements have allowed the safe capture and handling of large or dangerous animals as immobilization drugs and equipment have been developed. The increasing use of sedating drugs allows for handling of animals with reduced stress and other impacts. A number of topics, such as toe-clipping, branding, defining which taxa can or cannot feel pain, catch-and-release fishing, and more, remain controversial within wildlife science. How we treat the wild animals that we deal with defines who we are as wildlife professionals, and animal welfare concerns and techniques for free-ranging animals will continue to develop and evolve.
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Vol. 52 • No. 2s