Wolf populations in the U.S. are at their highest levels in 60 years (wallpaper photo from fanpop.com). Greenmomster recently posted an update on several wolf populations (gray, red, mexican) found in the U.S. The attitudes of folks living near these wolf populations is critical to their future survival, and that’s why a recent study in Wisconsin is worth our attention. Researchers surveyed just under 2000 households in 2001 or 2004 and then resurveyed roughly 650 households in 2009 to determine whether attitudes toward wolves changed over time. It turns out, attitudes regarding the presence of wolves became more negative over time, particularly with individuals who saw wolves as competitors for deer (that is, people who wanted to hunt deer, but saw wolves as their competitors). Interesting! It seems that negative images of wolves on local media may have played a role in changing citizens’ attitudes. Researchers suggested more studies to determine whether positive environmental education, as well as compensation for any losses due to wolf predation, might keep attitudes more positive. It looks like wolf reintroduction and conservation efforts will need associated environmental education to make these programs successful in the long term, which is necessary as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers removal of the gray wolf from the protections of the Endangered Species Act.
Source: Treves, A. and L. Naughton-Treves, V. Shelley. 2013. “Longitudinal Analysis of Attitudes Toward Wolves.” Conservation Biology, Vol. 27. No. 2, 315-323.