Toward an Understanding of Beaver Management as Human and Beaver Densities Increase

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Siemer, William F. ; Jonker, Sandra A. ; Decker, Daniel J. ; Organ, John F. (2013)
  • Publisher: DigitalCommons@USU
  • Subject: attitudes | beaver | damage tolerance | density | human–wildlife conflict | management | model | wildlife acceptance capacity | Animal Sciences

Estimates of beaver (Castor canadensis) density play an important role in wildlife managers’ decisions about beaver population management, because managers anticipate higher incidence of problem complaints when a beaver population increases. To manage the impacts of beavers in an urbanizing landscape, managers need better information on changes in stakeholder beliefs and attitudes as beaver and human densities reach high levels. We conducted additional analysis of data collected in 2002 through mail surveys of residents in New York and Massachusetts to test hypothesized relationships between beaver density and damage experience, attitudes toward beavers, and norms about beaver management actions. Consistent with previous research, we found a correlation between personal experience with beaver-related problems, lower acceptance capacity for beavers, and higher acceptability of lethal beaver management actions. In comparison to residents living in areas with low beaver density, residents of areas with high beaver density were more likely to: experience beaver-related problems; believe that beaver-related damage had greatly increased in their area; express a preference for beaver population reduction; express less tolerant attitudes toward beaver presence; and accept lethal control of beavers as a response to beaver-related problems. These findings add to understanding of wildlife acceptance capacity, generally, and tolerance of beavers specifically. Based on our findings, we propose a conceptual model representing key dynamic interrelationships between stakeholder attitudes, norms, and common beaver management practices. We discuss a causal loop diagram representing the model to illuminate the challenges wildlife managers are likely to face as the context for beaver management changes. The model articulates the dynamic complexity of urban beaver management and fills a gap in the literature by conceptualizing beaver management as a coupled human–natural system. Such models may aid communication in locales where high densities of beaver and people set the stage for human–wildlife conflict and emergence of disruptive wildlife management issues.
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