Study finds wide attitude gap on wolves

Who's afraid of the big bad wolf? The survey says: it largely depends on who you are and what you do, according to a study by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the University of Wisconsin. Published in the December issue of the journal Conservation Biology, survey results among people who live with wolves in northern Wisconsin revealed that deeply rooted social identities and occupations are more powerful predictors of their attitudes toward wolves than individual encounters, or losses of pets and livestock.

Using a mail-back survey with a pool of 535 respondents, scientists found that bear hunters were the group with the least tolerance, with approximately 74 percent of the 124 hunters in the survey in favor of reducing or eliminating Wisconsin's wolf population. Attitudes among this group did not vary greatly between the perceived threat and an actual loss of hunting dogs, which sometimes fall prey to wolves. By comparison, about 44 percent of livestock producers favored reducing or eliminating wolves, and only 28.5 percent of general residents supported the same. Overall, there is moderate support for wolf recovery statewide, with only 17.4 percent indicating that wolves should be eliminated.

"This survey can help us identify those key areas where wolf recovery may be compromised by local intolerance," said Dr. Adrian Treves, a conservationist with WCS's Living Landscapes program and a co-author of the paper. "Logically, the survey respondents with the most to lose from wolves--livestock producers and hunters with dogs--were less tolerant than regular residents, but overall tolerance did not vary greatly between those who suffered loses and those who didn't. This indicates that attitudes lie deeper."

Although eliminated from the state in the 1950s, wolves have re-colonized Wisconsin from Minnesota, with the state's current population numbering some 350 individuals. Since the survey was conducted, wolves have been federall

Contact: John Delaney
Wildlife Conservation Society

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