The Effectiveness of Two Interventions on Reducing Deer Feeding Behavior by Park Visitors
Hockett, Karen Sue
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Seeing wildlife in our Nation's parks is often a highlight of many visitors' trips, but close range human - wildlife interactions can have negative consequences for both wildlife and people. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of two interventions (fear and moral appeals) designed to reduce the feeding of deer by visitors in Shenandoah National Park by measuring changes in visitor attitudes and behavior. The study was conducted from July - September 1999 in a campground and picnic area, by placing the interventions (a small sign) on all picnic tables. Visitor attitudes and beliefs about the different components of the fear and moral appeal interventions were assessed by conducting surveys of campers under each experimental condition (control, moral appeal, and fear appeal). The impact of the interventions on behavior was tested in the picnic area by observing the responses of visitors to deer that frequently begged for food. Under current Park intervention conditions, visitors generally believe that feeding deer is not healthy for the deer. They have considerably less knowledge about potential threats to themselves from feeding deer. The fear appeal significantly changed attitudes about the risks to people (ANOVA, p=0.001). Under control conditions the majority (63%) of groups picnicking fed deer. Although the fear appeal produced an attitude change, it did not reduce feeding behavior by visitors (39% fed) as much as the moral appeal did (25% fed). The conflicting results between attitude and behavior change strongly suggest that researchers need to measure behavior and not just attitudes.
- Masters Theses