Human-coyote interactions: risk perception and education evaluation in a national park

Sponarski, Carly C. (2014) Human-coyote interactions: risk perception and education evaluation in a national park. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Human dimensions uses theoretical frameworks (e.g., cognitive hierarchy) and applied methods to understand human-wildlife conflicts. In this dissertation, the cognitive hierarchy is used to understand the relationships among cognitions measured at different levels of specificity. Cognitions can range from general (e.g., values/value orientations) to specific (e.g., attitudes/norms), which in turn influence individual and/or agency behaviour (e.g., management actions). This study examined different levels of cognition in relation to human-coyote interactions in Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia, Canada. Since a coyote caused death the of a park visitor in 2009, safety has become a primary concern for the park. Understanding human-coyote interactions supports informed management decisions and planning, and extends theoretical insights to human-wildlife conflicts. Carnivores can ignite the imagination and polarize people’s beliefs, attitudes, and preferences about acceptable management practices. Aspects of risk perception such as the fear or likelihood of, and control over, an interaction with a potentially dangerous species play a role in a person’s attitudes and management preferences. These risk perceptions are examined and compared among residents, park visitors, and park staff (Chapter 2). People’s beliefs, attitudes, and preferences of acceptable management practices are also influenced by emotions. Human dimensions of wildlife research has traditionally focused on cognitions, which commonly explain 50% of the variance of responses. Emotions may account for another portion of the variation, as wildlife issues are often contentious. To assess the potential influence of emotions on behavioural intention, emotional dispositions are examined relative to different types of humancoyote interactions (Chapter 3). Understanding the cognitive and emotional influences on management action acceptability is important for guiding management decisions and helping to develop human dimensions of wildlife theory. Understanding which management action is more or less acceptable in relation to different types of humancoyote interactions is also important for guiding management actions (Chapter 4). In this dissertation, risk perception, emotional disposition, and the acceptability of management strategies are examined to better understand the nature of ongoing humanwildlife conflicts. Based on this research, a practical management intervention was developed. The effectiveness of an experiential coyote education program was evaluated to see whether the program influenced change in attitudes and risk perceptions in participants (Chapter 5). This study examined human dimensions of wildlife theory within the context of the research questions and contributed a management intervention for human-coyote interactions.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 8078
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 137-155).
Keywords: Cognitive hierarchy, coyote, emotions, experiential education, human-wildlife interaction, risk perception, Parks Canada, park staff, resident, visitor, wildlife management
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Geography
Date: August 2014
Date Type: Submission

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