Human dimensions of grizzly bear conservation: The social factors underlying satisfaction and coexistence beliefs in Montana, USA

Holly K. Nesbitt, Alexander L. Metcalf, Elizabeth Covelli Metcalf, Cecily M. Costello, Lori L. Roberts, Mike S. Lewis, Justin A. Gude

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Coexistence between large carnivores and humans is a global conservation concern. Montana (USA) is home to recovering grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) populations and increasing human–grizzly interactions. In 2019, we administered a survey of Montanans to investigate factors influencing normative beliefs about grizzly bear population sizes and quantify the relationship between these beliefs and satisfaction with grizzly management in the state. Using a linear regression (r2 =.61), we found that residents with positive attitudes and emotional dispositions toward grizzlies or who trusted the agency were more likely to believe grizzly populations were too low. Residents who believed hunting should be used to manage conflict, were themselves hunters, had vicarious wildlife experience with property damage, believed grizzly populations were expanding, or were older were more likely to believe populations were too high. We found a negative quadratic relationship between normative grizzly bear population size beliefs and satisfaction with management, suggesting an optimal “Goldilocks” zone where coexistence is most possible. In practice, if observed Goldilocks zones are incompatible with population numbers required to meet conservation goals, considering factors influencing these beliefs may help bolster acceptance of larger population sizes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12885
JournalConservation Science and Practice
Volume5
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2023

Keywords

  • acceptance
  • coexistence
  • conflict
  • grizzly bear
  • hunting
  • large carnivores
  • satisfaction
  • social psychology
  • tolerance
  • trust

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