Bobcat and coyote management scenarios: evaluating the flexibility of management preferences in probable scenarios
Melissa Eileen Stanger, MS
Advisor: Jeremy T. Bruskotter
Coyotes (Canis latrans) are now commonplace in cities across the United States, and bobcats (Lynx rufus) are growing in numbers within city limits as years pass. These generalist mesocarnivores have adapted their behaviors to thrive in an anthropogenic environment. This phenomenon is largely unnoticed by much of the public. However, humans have struggled to adapt their behaviors in response to the increased presence of mesocarnivores in cities. The urban public in the United States is generally uncertain how to foster a healthy relationship with wildlife in urban areas. Management agencies tend to be more reactive rather than proactive in dealing with carnivores, but proactive management may be necessary to foster human-carnivore co-existence in urban areas. We sought to better understand residents’ judgements of appropriate responses to interactions with coyotes and bobcats in scenarios not involving a threat to human safety. To do this we conducted cross-sectional surveys of adult residents of the United States and the state of Ohio and embedded randomly assigned carnivore interaction scenarios in which respondents were asked to choose the most appropriate method of predator control in response to each scenario. In our first study (chapter 2) we determined the likelihood that an individual would switch their preferred method of predator control between two human-mesocarnivore scenarios. We found that switching was predicted best by the location in which the scenarios occurred (i.e., residential, or agricultural area) and second by an increase in severity between the two scenarios’ context. Interestingly, a variety of cognitive (e.g., wildlife value orientations, affect towards the species of carnivore) and demographic (e.g., gender, level of urbanization in respondent residency) factors identified in prior studies is impacting judgments about the acceptability of various types of control had no impact on the odds of a respondent preferring the same form of predator control in response to different scenarios. In our second study (chapter 3) we found that an individual’s predator control preferences in scenarios with no direct threat to human safety were moderately associated with the respondent’s residential experience (i.e., the extent to which their current and childhood residences were located in more rural vs. urban locations). Additionally, wildlife value orientations were not as predictive as the urbanization level in respondent residency when predicting an individual’s predator control preferences across multiple scenarios. Collectively, these results demonstrate (1) the importance of context (i.e., location and severity of conflict incidents) and (2) residential experience in explaining judgments concerning appropriate means of controlling predators.