Establishing cause and effect i.e. causality, is a fundamental aim in science and important for wildlife management, as we need to know the cause of an event if we seek to reproduce, enhance or diminish it. We review 13 alternative approaches for applying 12 criteria to establish causality. Strength of causal inference is greater when more causal criteria are applied so we propose a scaffolding set of criteria to clearly establish causality. We recommend validating predicted outcomes of wildlife management efforts when predictions are based on a unique mechanism and temporality, especially when manipulative experimental studies are not feasible. We use 3 case studies, namely of lamb predation by feral pigs (Sus scrofa), causes of trends in northern spotted owls (Strix occidentalis caurina), and causes of trends in mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), to illustrate these topics, which are of wide relevance in wildlife management. We recommend greater use of causality and relative strength of causal inference to improve adaptive wildlife management.