Segmenting Public Beliefs about Conflict with Coyotes in an Urban Recreation Setting


  • Jerry J. Vaske
  • Mark D. Needham


value orientations, norms, attitudes, behavioral intentions, wildlife management, urban recreation settings, segmentation


Recognizing the diversity of opinions about wildlife, researchers have emphasized segmenting the public into homogeneous meaningful groups to understand potential responses to wildlife management strategies. This article segmented the public based on normative beliefs about lethal management of coyotes in an urban recreation setting. Data were obtained from a mail survey (n = 457) of residents in the South Suburban Park and Recreation District (SSPRD), which encompasses municipalities (e.g., Littleton, Englewood) in the Denver, Colorado metropolitan area. With extensive parks and open-space, this region provides prime habitat for coyotes, and SSPRD was concerned that the presence of coyotes would cause negative interactions with humans and domestic pets. Three groups of respondents were identified—those who believed that lethal coyote management was: (a) unacceptable (23 percent), (b) unacceptable except when coyotes injure or kill pets (42 percent), and (c) acceptable (35 percent). Compared to the other groups, respondents who felt that lethal management was unacceptable were more likely to have protectionist value orientations toward wildlife, positive general attitudes toward coyotes, negative specific attitudes toward lethal coyote management, and were less likely to support a vote in favor of killing coyotes. Segmenting the public helps managers identify different groups of people who make up an agency’s constituency and may or may not become involved in decision making regarding wildlife. Agencies can use information about norm-based segments to help predict the proportion of different publics who are likely to support, oppose, or be indifferent toward management actions. This information can also be used to target education efforts. The largest proportion of respondents agreed that lethal management was acceptable under certain conditions (e.g., injure or kill pets), but was unacceptable under other circumstances (e.g., coyote seen in residential area). Given that this segment of the public may not be firmly committed to either a positive or negative opinion about lethal The presence of wildlife in urban areas poses significant management challenges (Knuth, Siemer, Duda, Bissell, & Decker, 2001). Increases in deer populations, for example, have resulted in wildlife-related vehicular accidents (Conover, 1997), damage to ornamental vegetation (McCullough, Jennings, Gates, Elliott, & DiDonato, 1997), and transmission of Lyme disease to humans (Deblinger, Rimmer, Vaske, Vecellio, & Donnelly, 1993). Beavers cause destruction of trees and shrubs, and dams that they construct sometimes flood residential subdivisions (Enck, Connelly, & Brown, 1996; Ermer, 1988; Harbrecht, 1991). The presence of some species (e.g., mountain lions, coyotes) in urban areas can pose a safety risk to humans and domestic pets (Knuth et al., 2001; Wittmann, Vaske, Manfredo, & Zinn, 1998). Traditional management methods (e.g., hunting, lethal trapping) that can be effective in reducing problem wildlife populations, may not be feasible in areas of dense human population and may not be acceptable to some urban residents (McCullough et al., 1997; Zinn, Manfredo, Vaske, & Wittmann, 1998). Given demographic shifts (Cordell, Bergstrom, Betz, & Green, 2004; Manfredo & Zinn, 1996), changes in value orientations (Manfredo, Teel, & Bright, 2003), and increased effectiveness of interest groups and stakeholders (Campbell & MacKay, 2003; Decker, Brown, & Siemer, 2001), a broader spectrum of the public now management, they may be the most likely to be influenced by information and education aimed at attitudes and behavior related to this management action. Attempts to educate and inform individuals with protectionist wildlife value orientations to consider adopting favorable attitudes and vote in support of actions such as lethal trapping are less likely to be successful. Therefore, to have a large and supportive constituency, agencies may need to implement different strategies with different audiences to address conflicts with wildlife in urban recreation areas.