Knowledge, attitudes, and opinions about human-wildlife conflicts held by community leaders in Virginia
Elsner, Regina Marie
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Using a mail survey, I questioned 490 representatives of local government (i.e., elected officials, administrative officials, animal control officers, and county Cooperative Extension agents) about their understanding of human-wildlife conflicts in their communities, and their receptivity to participating in co-management partnerships with regulatory agencies. Response rates for the mail survey of these four populations ranged from 25.2% to 75.9%. Knowledge of and perceptions about human-wildlife conflicts varied among leader subpopulations, as did their assessment of risks associated with and prioritization of human-wildlife conflicts. Animal control and Extension personnel displayed greater knowledge about wildlife, expressed greater concern about potential risks, and assigned higher priority to human-wildlife conflicts in their community. Respondents indicated that wildlife complaints are being received from constituents in their community, but questions exist over who is responsible for managing these conflicts. Most respondents indicated a willingness to become involved in conflict resolution, but indicated less willingness for local government to take on a leadership role. Respondents could identify potential partners valuable to resolving human-wildlife conflicts, but they demonstrated uncertainty about the specific roles and responsibilities of these outside agencies (e.g., Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries). Respondents identified important potential impediments (i.e., financial and personnel resources, the need to provide additional training or equipment) that could preclude or reduce their ability to become involved in conflict resolution. Most respondents viewed community-based co-management approaches as realistic (74%) and attractive (63%) options for local governments to exercise in managing human-wildlife conflicts. Most respondents (74%) believed that co-management offered local governments a direct way to be involved in managing their own conflicts. Respondents believed that staffing and budget shortages would be significant impediments that would limit local governmentâ s participation in co-management agreements. This study clearly illustrates that human-wildlife conflicts are occurring in Virginia, but overall local governments are not at a point when they are willing or able to consider a proactive approach to managing these conflicts. Until some threshold is met or exceeded, leaders in these communities may not be willing to devote the time or resources necessary to enact proactive approaches. Before that threshold is met, the development and utilization of informational and educational resources can increase local governmentâ s capacity to develop and implement a comprehensive wildlife management plan for Virginia communities in the future.
- Masters Theses