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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Understanding humane expectations : public and expert attitudes towards human-wildlife interactions Dubois, Sara Dawn


The field of wildlife management has been on a collision course with societal values regarding animal use for some time. Although wildlife populations are still managed largely under the “North American model of wildlife conservation” to accommodate consumptive uses, many people, often with different concerns, want to be heard in decisions about wildlife. These human dimensions present a challenge to wildlife management, a field in which policy has been generally driven by experts. This research used several public engagement methods to understand broader attitudes towards wildlife management and how to incorporate them into policy. Participants with varying levels of wildlife experience in British Columbia, Canada, were asked in online and telephone surveys for their attitudes towards, and acceptance of, specific wildlife activities and management practices. Findings indicate a gap between public and expert opinions on invasive (e.g., relocation) and lethal management practices (e.g., problem bears, predator control, protection of endangered species). Problems also emerged with the public view of wildlife feeding. This led to a review of its motivations, types and consequences, and an evaluative framework was proposed to assess when feeding is acceptable. When asked to rate the harm to wildlife caused in various ways (hunting, vehicle collisions, pollution, etc.), experts and the public largely agreed on the relative importance of harms, indicating considerable potential for finding common ground between conservation-oriented and welfare-oriented citizens. However, some current management practices, especially those involving killing animals, lacked broad public support and may be improved upon with public participation in policy development, especially with women, urban residents, those with low wildlife engagement and animal-protectionist values. This could take the form of public polling or increased representation on decision-making committees. Societal expectations for managing human-wildlife interactions in BC documented by this research include ensuring that actions have an appropriate conservation purpose, are controllable, use humane methods, and appear fair to both people and wildlife. Including a broader public, educating both experts and the public on issues of humaneness, and strengthening wildlife and animal protection laws and enforcement, may serve to better align wildlife policy with societal values.

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