News From Responsive Management

 
Public Attitudes Toward Grizzly Bears, Black Bears, Cougars, and Marine Mammals

Successful wildlife management and conservation depend on three elements: wildlife populations, wildlife habitat, and the human population. Scientific principles and data are used to understand and manage wildlife populations and habitat, so it makes sense to use scientific principles and data to understand and manage the third element: people. Responsive Management has recently completed several surveys and needs assessments on a range of wildlife topics, where the human dimension is vital to program success. In this issue of our online newsletter, studies on public attitudes toward grizzly bears, black bears, cougars, and marine mammals are highlighted. Full reports for the grizzly bear, cougar, and manatee studies can be found on our website; the Pennsylvania black bear and marine mammal stranding studies are in progress. For information on other studies conducted by Responsive Management, or if you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Mark Damian Duda
Executive Director


Public Opinion and Knowledge Regarding Grizzly Bears
in Montana's Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem

Responsive Management recently assisted researchers in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem of Montana and Idaho in determining local residents' knowledge and attitudes regarding grizzly bears and grizzly bear recovery efforts. The survey was conducted by Responsive Management for a partnership group consisting of citizens, state and federal wildlife managers, and conservation organizations.
Read the Full Article         Read the Online Report  (5.05MB PDF)

Public Knowledge Regarding Black Bears in Pennsylvania
Responsive Management is conducting a major study to measure public knowledge of and attitudes toward black bears to help the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) meet its goals for successfully managing the species in Pennsylvania.    
Read the Full Article

Washington State Residents' Knowledge of and Attitudes Toward Cougars
To help Washington State wildlife professionals develop outreach programs based on a solid foundation of fact, Responsive Management conducted a major study on behalf of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Insight Wildlife Management, a private wildlife consulting firm, to determine public knowledge of and attitudes toward cougars.
Read the Full Article     Read the Online Report (2.1MB PDF)

Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program Study
Responsive Management is conducting a major evaluation for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The study will help the NMFS evaluate programs of its National Marine Fisheries Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program (MMHSRP) Southeast and Southwest Stranding Networks.
 
Florida Manatee Education and Outreach Needs Assessment
To assess education and public awareness materials and outreach programs related to the Florida manatee, Responsive Management recently completed a comprehensive needs assessment for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Florida Manatee Recovery Implementation Team's Education Working Group.
Read the Full Article      Read the Online Report (481K PDF)



 
Over the past 18 years, Responsive Management has conducted more than 50 major studies on public attitudes toward wildlife, including studies on wolf management, reintroduction, and recovery in Wyoming, New York, Arizona, and New Mexico; grizzly bear management, reintroduction, and recovery in Wyoming, Washington, Idaho, and Montana; black bear management in Maryland and West Virginia; the California condor in Arizona, California, and Utah; mountain lions in Arizona, California, and Washington; and Florida panther habitat and panther-related issues in Florida. To see more studies conducted by Responsive Management, including full reports in downloadable PDF form, visit our website. A listing of Responsive Management's recent and current projects can be found here (372K PDF).
 


Public Opinion and Knowledge Regarding Grizzly Bears in Montana's Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem
Responsive Management recently assisted researchers in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem of Montana and Idaho in determining local residents' knowledge and attitudes regarding grizzly bears and grizzly bear recovery efforts. The survey was conducted by Responsive Management for a partnership group consisting of citizens, state and federal wildlife managers, and conservation organizations. The researchers note that the results of the survey "offer wildlife managers a way to identify future information and education needs" for the residents of the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem. The study included a telephone survey as well as numerous cross-tabulations of results by age, gender, family dependency on forests and forestry, awareness of road restrictions, awareness of the grizzly bear recovery program, and respondent knowledge about grizzly bears.

Over the past 200 years, the grizzly bear has experienced a precipitous decline in population, from around 50,000 in the lower 48 states in the early 19th century to about 1,400 today, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In 1975, the grizzly bear was listed as a threatened species in the lower 48 states under the Endangered Species Act. Grizzly bear recovery efforts are focused on six recovery zones in the northwestern United States and southwestern Canada. The Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem, one of the six Grizzly Bear Recovery Zones, is home to at least 40 grizzly bears.

Respondents to the survey were residents of Lincoln and Sanders Counties, Montana, ages 18 and older. Major findings of the survey include the following:
  • Most respondents think of the grizzly bear as an important icon of the American frontier: 76% of respondents agree that grizzly bears are a symbol of the American frontier and should be preserved as part of our national heritage.
  • Although most respondents indicate that grizzly bears should be preserved, they are, at the same time, wary of them: 54% agree that grizzly bears are very dangerous to humans, while 38% disagree.
  • Most commonly, respondents indicate that the most likely reasons that a grizzly bear would attack a person are to protect a bear cub during an encounter (39% gave this answer), a surprise encounter with a bear in the backcountry (38%), or seeking or protecting a food source (31%).
  • It appears that most respondents know that humans can prevent most conflicts with grizzly bears by taking a few precautions: the overwhelming majority of respondents (90%) agree that this is true.
  • When asked directly whether they support or oppose having grizzly bears in the Cabinet Mountains and Yaak Valley, the large majority of respondents (64%) support having grizzly bears there, but 24% oppose.
  • When asked directly about whether they support or oppose grizzly bear recovery efforts, 57% of respondents support grizzly bear recovery in the Cabinet Mountains and Yaak Valley, but the level of support decreased to 44% when respondents were asked about achieving a grizzly bear population goal of 100 bears.
  • Wildlife biologists and managers recommend augmentation as one of the strategies necessary to effectively recover the Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear population. However, the survey showed that residents' level of support for grizzly bear population recovery efforts in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem increased from 57% to almost 75% if recovery could be done without using augmentation.
A full report, including background information on grizzly bears in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem and analysis and discussion of the cross-tabulation results, is available here (5.05MB PDF).

Public Knowledge Regarding Black Bears in Pennsylvania
Responsive Management is conducting a major study to measure public knowledge of and attitudes toward black bears to help the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) meet its goals for successfully managing the species in Pennsylvania. Areas of inquiry include general knowledge about black bears, satisfaction with bear population levels, opinions about bear management, experience with human-bear conflicts, and sources of information on black bears.

Pennsylvania's black bear population has increased substantially in recent decades and bears are now near record numbers in many areas of the state, according to the PGC. At the same time, more people are moving into areas of the state occupied by bears, resulting in more human-bear encounters. Public education on species management, the habits of bears, and how to handle bear encounters has therefore become more important than ever, as has the need to integrate the biological and human aspects of black bear management.
 
Responsive Management's research staff is integrating geographic information system (GIS) data with census block group data so that the study sample can be drawn based on Pennsylvania's wildlife management units. This methodology will help state wildlife professionals to more effectively manage the species by integrating findings regarding public opinion and knowledge with the goals of the state's Black Bear Management Plan on a per-wildlife-management-unit basis.

Responsive Management has conducted several other studies on public attitudes toward black bears, including a recent study of public attitudes toward black bear management in West Virginia conducted for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, as well as another for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The full report on the Maryland study is available here (340K PDF).

Washington State Residents' Knowledge of and Attitudes Toward Cougars
To help Washington State wildlife professionals develop outreach programs based on a solid foundation of fact, Responsive Management conducted a major study on behalf of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Insight Wildlife Management, a private wildlife consulting firm, to determine Washington residents' knowledge of and attitudes toward cougars.
 
The study included a telephone survey as well as cross-tabulations of the results by county, residential area, hunters and non-hunters, and cougar management unit. The results will be used to assess outreach education needs on cougar ecology, behavior, safety, and management in Washington State and guide the Cougar Outreach and Education Project as it is developed by Insight Wildlife Management and the WDFW.

"The increasing need to educate the public on cougar issues . . . has resulted in part from a growing human population and the residential development that accompanies it," says Jim Harmon, a consultant with Insight Wildlife Management and planning coordinator for the Cougar Outreach and Education Project. "Basically, more Washington residents are living and recreating in cougar country while cougar habitat is shrinking and becoming more fragmented."

Respondents to the survey were Washington State residents ages 18 and older. Topics explored included general knowledge of and attitudes toward cougars, knowledge of cougar populations and behavior, attitudes toward cougar encounters, opinions on cougar management, and sources of information on cougars. The questionnaire was developed cooperatively by Responsive Management, WDFW, and Insight Wildlife Management. Major findings of the study include the following:
  • Just over a fifth of respondents (22%) say they know a moderate amount about cougars in the state; 75% say they know a little or nothing at all.
  • The majority of respondents (68%) believe it is unlikely that a cougar will attack in a human-cougar encounter, and 34% believe it to be very unlikely (the correct answer).
  • A majority of respondents (68%) disagree with the following statement:  "Cougars are a threat to public safety in Washington State."
  • Respondents who have heard about cougars in the past five years most commonly receive information about cougars from television (35%), followed by newspapers (22%), and personal experience (16%).
  • Washington residents most commonly think that the number of cougars in the state has decreased in the past 30 years (42%), while 30% believe (correctly) that the number has increased.
  • A majority of respondents (59%) say that cougar populations in Washington State should be managed to maintain the current number of cougars.
The results of this study will help managers of the Cougar Outreach and Education Project determine knowledge gaps, valuation of cougars, and perceptions of threat among Washington residents. Cross-tabulations will also reveal specific audiences in different locales and point out differences among those audiences so that messaging and delivery of outreach information can be customized. Finally, the survey can be readministered at a later date to measure changes in public knowledge and perception as a result of Project efforts.
 
The planning phase for the Project started in January 2008; formal recommendations for cougar outreach campaigns and education are expected in March 2009. Harmon says that, beyond the planning phase, the goals of the outreach campaign include reducing cougar-human conflicts through education about cougar behavior and ecology and managing the human dimensions of cougar issues by mitigating inflated perceptions of the risk posed by cougars.

The complete report, including analysis of the cross-tabulations, is available here (2.1MB PDF).

Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program Study
Responsive Management is conducting a major evaluation for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The study will help the NMFS evaluate programs of its National Marine Fisheries Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program (MMHSRP) Southeast and Southwest Stranding Networks. According to the NMFS, from 1994 through 1998, a total of 19,130 marine mammal strandings were reported in the United States -- an average of 3,826 per year.

An important component of the study is to gather input regarding the Southeast and Southwest Stranding Networks' current performance, organizational structure, objectives, and needs to help determine future program directions and to enhance program management and implementation.

The regional stranding networks are part of the overall MMHSRP program, which includes stranding networks, responses/investigations of mortality events, biomonitoring, tissue/serum banking, and analytical quality assurance. The volunteer-staffed stranding networks receive direction and training from the NMFS. There are a total of six U.S. regional stranding networks.

Responsive Management was also recently awarded a contract to perform similar evaluations for the MMHSRP's Northeast and Northwest Stranding Networks.

More studies conducted by Responsive Management related to coastal resources can be found here.

Florida Manatee Education and Outreach Needs Assessment
To assess education and public awareness materials and outreach programs related to the Florida manatee, Responsive Management recently completed a comprehensive needs assessment for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Florida Manatee Recovery Implementation Team's Education Working Group. Manatees are protected under both the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act, and educating the public about issues related to habitat and human-manatee interactions is critical to their survival.

The Education Working Group was a subcommittee of the Florida Manatee Recovery and Implementation Team, which was active from 2003 until its dissolution in September 2007. Its members served in an advisory role supporting U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manatee recovery and conservation programs and activities.

Responsive Management conducts needs assessments by coupling internal assessments, an "inside-out" approach, with external assessments, an "outside-in" approach. This study used two separate questionnaires to assess specific needs for manatee education and outreach efforts: one administered to Education Working Group members to determine priorities for education and outreach (the needs assessment, or inside-out approach), and one administered to education/outreach providers to inventory available educational materials (the market inventory, or outside-in approach).

The study had three major areas of inquiry regarding manatee education and outreach: topic areas, target audiences, and formats. When comparing the results of the needs assessment with those of the market inventory, deficits and additional needs for manatee education and outreach emerged.

Topic areas were evaluated by comparing the topic areas rated by the Education Working Group members as extremely high or high priorities with the topic areas on which education/outreach providers focus a great deal. This analysis showed an overabundance of focus on manatee natural history; how to report an injured, dead, harassed, or orphaned manatee; ways to help manatees; manatee research, rescue, and rehabilitation; and manatee population issues. It also showed deficits in the degree of focus given to 11 topic areas: protecting aquatic ecosystems; warm water issues; harassment definition and impacts; the effects of pollution on water quality; the effects of littering; boating regulations, waterway signs, and manatee protection zones; how to safely observe manatees in the wild; legislation for manatee protection; manatee habitat needs; fundraising; and manatee mortality.

Current groups targeted by education/outreach providers were then evaluated by comparing the groups currently targeted a great deal by education/outreach providers to groups rated by Education Working Group members as extremely high priorities for education. Three groups show a likely overabundance in current education and outreach efforts: senior citizens ages 65 or older; "everyone" (in other words, the ubiquitous "general public"); and children ages 12 or younger.

Eighteen groups -- half the total number of target markets/audiences defined in the study -- currently show deficits in the amount of manatee education and outreach that Education Working Group members would like them to receive: dock/marina permit applicants; vessel/vehicle registrants; boaters/jet ski operators using public ramps; private marinas; the marine industry; public marinas; law enforcement; legislators/local and state governments; developers; shoreline/coastal property owners; property/land managers; the media; the tourism industry; divers, snorkelers, and swimmers; the business community; current license plate holders; Florida residents; and libraries.

Formats for manatee education and outreach produced by education/outreach providers were then compared with the formats rated as effective by Education Working Group members. Twelve formats viewed by Education Working Group members as being effective are either underused or not currently used by education/outreach providers: loaner resource boxes for educators; TV (e.g., video segments, programs, or ads/commercials); billboards; radio; virtual or electronic field trips; training/programs for educators; books and magazines; postcard campaigns; nature centers/preserves; Internet/website, e-mail, PDF documents; newspapers (e.g., news articles, ads); and mail packets and utility bill inserts.

The full report, including more results of the needs assessment and recommendations for action made by Responsive Management, can be found here (481K PDF).  
 
 

PHOTO CREDITS: GRIZZLY BEAR: TERRY TOLLEFSBOL/USFWS;
COUGAR: LARRY MOATS/USFWS; MANATEES: JIM REID/USFWS.

 

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mark@responsivemanagement.com | www.responsivemanagement.com