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Portrayal of Interactions Between Humans and Coyotes (Canis latrans): Content Analysis of Canadian Print Media (1998-2010)

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Abstract

Print media is one form of public discourse that provides a means to examine human-coyote interactions. We conducted a content analysis of 453 articles addressing coyote events reported in the Canadian print media between 1998 and 2010. We found 119 articles about human-coyote interactions, of which 32 involved a report of coyote biting (26) or attempting to bite (6) a person. 108 articles were about coyote-dogs and 32 about coyotes-cat interactions. Remaining articles were on topics unrelated to interactions (e.g. culls). Basing our analysis in grounded theory, we identified important descriptive and emotional themes surrounding these events. The most common words describing coyotes were: brazen, wiley, mangy, nuisance, wild and vicious. Interactions were described as attacks in 185 articles, while only 32 “attacks” were identified. Coyotes were portrayed as not natural in cities, as an invasive species, and more recently using language depicting criminal behaviour. Descriptions of coyotes killing or attacking people were inflammatory (e.g. savaged, ripped juts open), whereas descriptions of people killing coyotes were not (e.g. euthanized). Five emotional responses emerged describing humans involved in coyote interactions. Of these, statements of fear were most prevalent and yielded the richest understanding of perceptions about the risk of coyote-human interactions, including: fear for children’s safety (73), fear for disease (44), fear for pet safety (43), and fear for self or others safety (35). Traumatic response was reported in 28 articles, while sadness and grief were described in 17. Two other themes were: 1) animal welfare concerns, 2) frustration due to lack of agency response. Popular media plays a critical role in shaping public understanding and can influence people’s emotional experiences, perceptions and management consequences. We highlight that coyotes are prejudiced (and stereotyped) based on the isolated and sensationalized incidents. Coyotes in particular elicit a wide range of emotional responses in people, and there is often a wide gap between perception and reality of risk when understanding whether it is possible for humans and coyotes to co-exist. Hence, there is a strong need for media literacy about the unintended or intended maligning of coyotes to the general public, as the consequence can be social amplification of risk and the unwarranted persecution of coyotes.
Cities and the Environment (CATE)
Volume 4
|
Issue 1 Article 9
2-23-2012
Portrayal of Interactions Between Humans and
Coyotes (Canis latrans): Content Analysis of
Canadian Print Media (1998-2010)
Shelley M. Alexander
University of Calgary, smalexan@ucalgary.ca
Michael S. Quinn
University of Calgary, Quinn@ucalgary.ca
is Special Topic Article: Urban Predators is brought to you for free and open access by the Biology at Digital Commons at Loyola Marymount
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Recommended Citation
Alexander, Shelley M. and Quinn, Michael S. (2012) "Portrayal of Interactions Between Humans and Coyotes (Canis latrans):
Content Analysis of Canadian Print Media (1998-2010)," Cities and the Environment (CATE): Vol. 4: Iss. 1, Article 9.
Available at: hp://digitalcommons.lmu.edu/cate/vol4/iss1/9
Portrayal of Interactions Between Humans and Coyotes (Canis latrans):
Content Analysis of Canadian Print Media (1998-2010)
Print media is one form of public discourse that provides a means to examine human-coyote interactions. We
conducted a content analysis of 453 articles addressing coyote events reported in the Canadian print media
between 1998 and 2010. We found 119 articles about human-coyote interactions, of which 32 involved a
report of coyote biting (26) or aempting to bite (6) a person. 108 articles were about coyote-dogs and 32
about coyotes-cat interactions. Remaining articles were on topics unrelated to interactions (e.g. culls). Basing
our analysis in grounded theory, we identied important descriptive and emotional themes surrounding these
events. e most common words describing coyotes were: brazen, wiley, mangy, nuisance, wild and vicious.
Interactions were described as aacks in 185 articles, while only 32 “aacks” were identied. Coyotes were
portrayed as not natural in cities, as an invasive species, and more recently using language depicting criminal
behaviour. Descriptions of coyotes killing or aacking people were inammatory (e.g. savaged, ripped juts
open), whereas descriptions of people killing coyotes were not (e.g. euthanized). Five emotional responses
emerged describing humans involved in coyote interactions. Of these, statements of fear were most prevalent
and yielded the richest understanding of perceptions about the risk of coyote-human interactions, including:
fear for childrens safety (73), fear for disease (44), fear for pet safety (43), and fear for self or others safety
(35). Traumatic response was reported in 28 articles, while sadness and grief were described in 17. Two other
themes were: 1) animal welfare concerns, 2) frustration due to lack of agency response. Popular media plays a
critical role in shaping public understanding and can inuence peoples emotional experiences, perceptions
and management consequences. We highlight that coyotes are prejudiced (and stereotyped) based on the
isolated and sensationalized incidents. Coyotes in particular elicit a wide range of emotional responses in
people, and there is oen a wide gap between perception and reality of risk when understanding whether it is
possible for humans and coyotes to co-exist. Hence, there is a strong need for media literacy about the
unintended or intended maligning of coyotes to the general public, as the consequence can be social
amplication of risk and the unwarranted persecution of coyotes.
Keywords
coyotes, Canis latrans, content analysis, media, Canada, emotions, language
is special topic article: urban predators is available in Cities and the Environment (CATE): hp://digitalcommons.lmu.edu/cate/
vol4/iss1/9
INTRODUCTION
The coyote (Canis latrans) is the only canid to arise, adapt, and remain continuously in North
America (Wang et al. 2008). Recently, coyotes have become an increasing management concern
because their significant behavioural plasticity allows them to live in cities (Bekoff and Gese
2003). While this resilient character earned it a central, revered place in the culture and
mythology of indigenous peoples from the Athabaskans of the far north to the Zapotecs of
southern Mesoamerica (Dobie 1949, Cadieux 1983, Walker 1994), the European regime has
subjected the coyote to extreme persecution:
For forty-five years, Uncle Sam has fought a war against coyotes … and lost! In the
years between 1937 and 1981, minions of the Fish and Wildlife Service scalped
3,612,220 coyotes. The ears with a connecting strip of skin were sent to a central tallying
point as proof of their “body count”. In 1982 there were probably more coyotes in the
United States than ever before. Don’t tell me that we didn’t lose that war (Cadieux 1983,
p. 51).
Highly adaptable, coyotes can easily switch food resources and become conditioned to
human food sources; in turn, this can lead to negative interactions with people and pets (Carbyn
1989, Gehrt 2004). Interactions deemed to be negative by humans result in significant
challenges for managers, who must try to balance public perception of risks to human safety with
maintaining critical ecological function. Extreme reactions to coyote attacks in cities spawn calls
for widespread culls (Fox and Papouchis 2005, Berger 2006). Yet, on average, a review of media
reports about coyote attacks in Canada showed that just less than 3 people per year were bitten
by a coyote in Canada between 1995-2010 (Alexander and Quinn 2011).
The ecological role of coyotes in complex, social-ecological urban systems (Alberti 2008,
Pickett et al. 2011a) is worth considering and maintaining, as the species have been found to
have a critical role in ecosystem function (Crooks and Soule 1999, Bekoff and Gese 2003).
Crooks and Soule (1999) argued that the presence of coyotes in cities can maintain breeding bird
populations through the suppression of smaller carnivores, such as, mustelids and feral cats.
Gehrt (2004) and Piccolo (2002) also theorized that coyotes may contribute to the regulation of
white-tailed deer and Canada geese respectively. Maintaining this trophic function is predicted
to be ecologically critical in urban systems that tend more towards bottom-up control (Faeth et
al. 2005). Such ecological benefits underscore the need to strive for human-coyote coexistence
(Baker and Timm 1998).
Despite the role coyotes have in urban ecosystems, they continue to be subject to
widespread control and removal efforts. These efforts have proven largely ineffective due to the
resilient life history characteristics of this species, a few of the most relevant of which are
outlined here (Fox and Papouchis 2005). Coyote packs consist of related individuals and the
pack sizes vary by geographic region or habitat types, and can produce litters of approximately
six pups per year. They have a highly organized social system, and in theory only the alpha pair
will reproduce. However, as with wolves, coyotes are serial monogamists; they may only breed
with one individual, but that individual may change over time. And, when the population is
under pressure from hunting, for example, social structure may break down, resulting in more
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and younger animals breeding to compensate for losses in the population (Bekoff et al. 1986).
More specifically, whereas coyote females in an intact social system may normally breed
between the ages of 2-4 years of age the age of first reproduction may be as early as 1 if the
population is stressed. Research has documented this process, illustrating that widespread killing
of coyotes alters social structure, changes breeding patterns, results in more pups being born and
greater recruitment to the overall population of coyotes (Fox and Papouchis 2005). This effect
can render control efforts useless for reducing numbers, and simultaneously may exacerbate
conflict by creating a population favoring younger, less well socialized animals that are prone to
exploit human sources of food. In Canada, coyotes continue to be the target of eradication
programs despite the litany of failed efforts (Sandlos 1998). For example, it is estimated that
71,000 coyotes were killed in Saskatchewan between November 2009 and March 2010 in
response to a provincial bounty of $20/animal (Government of Saskatchewan 2010).
It would seem self-evident that the coyote is here to stay and we believe that efforts
would be better directed toward achieving coexistence rather than eradication. Learning to live
with coyotes in a “humane metropolis” (Pickett et al. 2011b) necessitates understanding their
ecology, but perhaps more importantly, becoming more erudite with human perceptions,
attitudes, values and behaviors toward them (Decker et al. 2001, Clark et al. 2005, Baruch-
Mordo et al. 2009, Draheim et al. 2011, Johansson and Karlsson 2011). In fact, as Bekoff and
Bexell (2010) remark, it is not the lack of ecological knowledge and data that leads to lost
opportunities to co-exist with species like the coyote, “rather, losses are typically due to
problems of human psychology, and social and cultural factors that result in the inadequate
protection of animals and their habitats” (p.71).
Carnivores are particularly poignant with respect to human dimensions of wildlife issues
in cities, because they elicit such strong emotional responses (Jacobs 2009, Draheim et al. 2011).
Such responses can inform species’ characterization, management and conservation (Johansson
and Karlsson 2011). Coyotes, specifically, elicit a wide range of emotional responses in people
and there is often a wide gap between public perception and the actual risk associated with co-
existance (Alexander and Quinn 2011). These responses are frequently seen in media discourse
(i.e., on tv or in print media). Print media offers a pervasive and rich venue for examining such
public discourse and provides a window into how human-coyote interactions are portrayed.
Reviewing these media stories yields valuable information about the incidence and outcomes of
human-coyote interactions as well as insight into: the attitudes and perceptions people have
about coyotes, the emotions elicited through the interaction, how best to manage both species
and how the media may influence public perception (Bengston et al. 1999, Siemer et al. 2007).
In particular, discourse analysis is said to improve our understanding of the human dimensions of
coyote interactions (White and Gehrt 2009). As such, we used content analysis to explore how
the media characterize coyote interactions with people and pets in Canada.
Media content analysis usually employs a systematic approach to understanding public
communications (Bengston et al. 1999, Stempel 2003, Krippendorf 2004), and has been applied
to many environment and wildlife research questions (e.g., Miller 1997, Bengston et al. 1999,
Bissionault et al. 2005, Gore et al. 2005, Raghavan 2008, Houston et al. 2010, Jacobson et al.
2011). By systematic, we refer to the process whereby articles are read, and a consistent set of
selection, sorting and coding rules are applied to text (words, phrases) over multiple reviews of
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the same articles. Media content analysis has proven to be a reliable approach to identifying
themes in public discourse (Stempel 2003, Krippendorf 2004). In fact, researchers have gone as
far as to suggest content analysis may be substituted for attitude surveys and opinion polls.
Beyond the depth and breadth of data provide by the media through articles, the media
have a vital role to play in shaping human perceptions of and our ability to co-exist with wildlife
(Wolch 2002, Freeman et al. 2011). “In addition to describing facts and events, texts often
communicate information about the attitude of the writer or various participants towards an event
being described” (Polanyi and Zaenen 2004, p.1). Perceptions about coyotes are no exception.
The lexical choice of the writer used to convey information about coyotes can influence people’s
emotional responses, perceptions and management consequences (Fraser et al. 2006, Draheim et
al. 2011). We acknowledge that newspapers and journalists often depend upon negative stories
to sell papers, and hence, portrayals of coyote events are likely to be negative rather than
positive. However, our intent here was not determine how each media characterization directly
affected public perceptions about coyotes, but to explore the key ways journalists’
characterization of coyotes may amplify negative perceptions or stereotypes of coyotes. Overly
negative or sensational portrayal of coyote-human interactions has the potential to influence
public beliefs in a way that could be detrimental to coexistence. Perhaps more critically, a single
negative encounter with a wild animal in an urban setting can increase negative attitudes
(Herberlein and Ericcson 2008). Below, we provide an examination of the way coyotes are
portrayed in the media. An over arching aim is to help the media, educators, scientists or
managers to be aware of the ways in which coyotes and their relationship to people may be
unfairly or prejudicially represented.
METHODS
We searched digital archives of Canadian newspapers published between 1 January 1995 and 31
December 2010. Screening documents for titles that included the word “coyote”, we found
approximately 30,000 articles, many of which were not about coyotes in Canada or Canis
latrans. Hence, we applied constraint terms to narrow our search. These terms consisted of
words that were commonly found in titles of articles that were not about the animal coyotes or
did not occur in Canada. Common words were found by manually reading thousands of titles,
which yielded the following constraint terms: Phoenix, Hockey, USA, Mexico, and Afghanistan.
By removing articles with the words Phoenix, and hockey in the titles, we removed a majority of
articles about the Phoenix Coyotes hockey team. Removing articles with the word USA in titles
helped to isolate Canadian events; likewise, those with Mexico in the title were removed, and
helped to eliminate articles dealing with human trafficking from Mexico by “Coyotes” into the
USA. The word Afghanistan was frequently found in association with the word coyote (from
2001 onwards) due to the use of a Canadian military forces vehicle, the Coyote. The application
of these constraint terms reduced our article set to approximately 3,000 items. We then vetted
these titles manually to remove any additional non-target articles. The result was 1,214 articles
with none dated prior to 1998. From these, we extracted 453 primary articles related to human-
coyote events in or related to urban centers. We defined primary articles as the first printed
report of an interaction with a coyote. Secondary articles (subsequent reprints and follow up
reports), editorials, letters to the editor and articles solely addressing agricultural/rural coyote
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interaction were not included here. Primary articles were imported for analysis into NVivo 9
content analysis software (QSR International 1999-2010).
We employed an inductive approach to data analysis, which we based in grounded theory
(Strauss and Corbin 1990). Grounded theory, as applied to content analysis, facilitates the
emergence of important themes and explanations from a case dataset (i.e., our collection or print
media articles) without a-priori hypotheses (Charmaz 2000). As such, our only a-priori
categories included “type of interaction”, “date”, “location”, and “location details” as our initial
sorting conditions. In the present analysis the grounded theory applied to the case dataset
identified important concepts (e.g., characterization of coyotes and coyote behavior, what types
of emotional responses were reported) and helped explain the relationships between concepts.
These themes may be qualitatively or quantitatively described. For example, Raghavan (2008)
used media content analysis to quantify the number of fatal dog attacks in Canada, but clarifies
that knowing precise fatality rates may be less useful than understanding which dogs tend to
attack, how they attack and the description of events that precipitate, precede, or mitigate attacks.
In this paper, the term attack describes encounters that result in a person or pet being bitten by a
coyote. We use “direct encounter” to describe any event where a coyote and human or pet are in
close range or in contact (e.g., a sighting or being followed by a coyote).
We used an open coding, multiple-pass approach, in which themes were identified by
reading, then copying notable words, phrases, concepts, events, or descriptions into new code
categories associated with news themes as they emerged. This multi-pass approach facilitated
removal/addition/merging of nodes. For example, a first pass through articles may begin with
one category called “incident” and determine over time that there is sufficient evidence to have
multiple incident types (e.g., “cat”, “dog”, “human”, other”). We applied a constant comparative
procedure (Cresswell and Maietta 2002) to three full iterations of reading the articles. We
identified descriptive words, phrases, and the lexical approach (Polanyi and Zaenen 2004) used
by the media in the portrayal of coyote-human interactions.
The iterative coding was applied to the 453 articles about urban coyote interactions and
resulted in a consistent set of information categories, including: 1) summary of incident type, 2)
description of coyotes (single words and phrases), 3) description of coyotes killing pets versus
humans killing or fighting with coyotes (words and phrases), 4) criminalization of coyote
behavior, 5) human emotional experiences reported (fear, sadness, anger, frustration with
agencies), and 6) assumptions about coyotes in cities and in Canada (public and experts).
In category 1, we summarized the frequency of each type of event: coyote sighting,
coyote-human, coyote-dog, coyote-cat, and coyote-other. For category 2 we tallied individual
words, and qualitatively explored the word clusters that were used by media to describe coyotes
or their behavior. In category 3 we compared the language and words used to describe how
coyotes kill or attack people or pets, in contrast to the words used to describe how humans kill
coyotes. In addition, we explored how the media characterized humans that had been attacked
(e.g., language describing victimization). Category 4 provides qualitative examples of a recent
trend for media to portray coyotes in cities as criminals; although related to category 2, the
prevalence of this theme justified its isolation. Category 5 includes the kinds of emotional
experiences portrayed in response to coyote interactions (attack or other), in order of frequency
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of reports by emotional category. These experiences were identified by the words and phrases
(e.g., the woman feared for her life), or those attributed to observers and victims (e.g., I am afraid
for my children and pets). Due to the high occurrence of ‘fear’ as an emotion expressed in the
articles, we explored and quantified the emergent subcategories. The category “trauma” was
included to describe the consequence of fear or loss. Two other themes emerged that relate to
emotions and perceptions: 1) animal welfare concerns and, 2) frustration due to lack of agency
response. Lastly, in category 6 we identified some assumptions about coyote distribution and
occurrence that provide key areas to target education.
RESULTS
Category 1: Summary of Incident
Of the 453 articles, 102 were about sightings, 119 described coyote-human interactions (26 were
classified as attacks), 108 reported coyote-dog events, 88 explored or described culling events in
Canada, 34 were about coyote-cat encounters, and 2 described situations where coyotes led
humans to human corpses. We explored the human and pet interactions with coyotes in detail in
a separate paper (Alexander and Quinn 2011). Articles about sightings refer to those that
describe a simple observation of a coyote. For example, a coyote was seen walking down the
street, in a yard, or at a school. In the previous case there was no “conflict” or contact between
people, pets and coyotes. Coyote–human and coyote-pet interactions (dog and cat) refer to
interactions where there was either a direct interaction (i.e., close contact such as following a
person) or an attack (i.e., biting). Coyote control/cull articles describe or detail responses to
various culls that were implemented during the period of time examined (1995-2010). Lastly,
the category “coyote leads to dead body” was kept separate because these seemed to be unusual
cases of human-coyote interactions. In one case, several coyotes were described (by police) to
have been approaching and investigating a dead person in a back-alley of Vancouver. In the
second case, a woman on horseback was drawn to an area by coyote howls and subsequently
found coyotes around the skeletal remains of a woman.
Category 2: Description of Coyotes (Words and Phrases)
Coyotes in cities that are involved in an interaction with humans or pets are described to have
“attacked” in 185 articles, with 272 references to attack(ed/ing) and three using the word maul.
The other most common words (and their frequency of occurrence) used to describe coyotes in
cities were:
bold (19)
brazen (16)
wiley (15)
mangy (6)
nuisance (5)
wild (3)
vicious (3)
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Other words were used less than 3 times, but we suggest they might be aggregated into
thematic clusters as follows:
coyotes are like a disease or a pose a disease risk (infestation, threat, spread
disease, diseased, pests, plague, running rampant, sickly)
coyotes exhibiting aggressive or unusual behavior (violent, stalking, aggressive,
brash, lurking, alarming, stealthy, prowling, harassing, menacing, aggressive,
nervy, savage, killers, unbelievable)
coyote appearance (scruffy, fox like, German Shepherd-like, wild, rugged)
coyote role or effect on people or pets in cities (nuisance, problem, unnerving,
pests, intruders, invaders, like rats).
Category 3: Contrasting Media Portrayal of Human and Coyote Behavior during
Interactions
The media portrayal of humans killing, trapping, or fighting coyotes can be contrasted with
descriptions of coyotes attempting to bite or biting people or pets. The following quotations
provide a range of words and phrases used to describe coyote behavior during interactions with
people and pets:
he [the coyote] tore a cat to pieces
shocked witnesses watched in horror as the animal went in for the kill
they feast on small prey
terrorize pets
chomped on [a pet]
the pet died violently
it was a narrow escape for the dog
the coyote claimed the life of a puppy
he’s [coyote] got one purpose – to hunt cats
they wreak havoc
he left the cat with guts hanging out
engaged in a rash of killings
ravaged the pet
left yard strewn with tufts of cat fur and intestines
necks ripped open, and ribs picked clean
ripped apart the dog
viciously attacked and savaged a cat
attack everything that moves
they go into “attack mode”.
In contrast, the human involved in an interaction was described as follows:
the coyote struck the brave mother and drove her glasses into her nose
the woman was bloodied and frightened
she came face to face with an aggressive coyote
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faced off with the coyote
it sunk its’ fangs into Kayla’s left arm
they are so crafty they’ve learned to scare children to take what they want
they are coming dangerously close to homes
he was confronted by a coyote.
One woman reportedly described herself as having “engaged in hand to hand combat
with a coyote”. One story highlighted a 10 year old boy in Edmonton being awarded a Bronze
Medal for Bravery, after kicking and scaring away a coyote that was reported to have come into
the yard to attack him and another 10 year old boy. In relation to the act of killing, humans that
were described to have:
culled
put down
dispatch
destroy
euthanize
regrettable event
form of pest control
deal with the problem
deal with the pests
reduce numbers
put a bounty on them
done a kindness to thin the numbers
cut down population
offer an incentive program
implement a death sentence.
The method a human used when killing or taking action against a coyote was described
as follows:
mission accomplished
[the coyote] was hit [by the bullet] but not dead
tracked and killed
shot and killed
shot and trapped
they [people] are sharpening knives and hatchets
snared
trapped.
Phrases about killing coyotes that show a lack of respect for animals and animal welfare
included: “they were hunted into submission”, and “”he was finished off with a hammer”. In
killing contests and culls, hunters/trappers were asked to “bring in the ears only”, or that “four
paws must be presented”. The Osgood, Ontario Great Coyote Contest was sponsored by a
private retail company, which described the number of dead coyotes arriving at their shop as “a
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back log of dead coyotes at the door”. Finally, one article borrows from old stereotypes and
states that “for lack of an Acme anvil or a deep canyon, they put down a box trap”.
Category 4: Portrayal of Coyotes as Criminals
We observed a recent trend (post 2006), to use words and phrases generally reserved for the
description of criminal behavior in humans:
like brazen bandits engaged in daytime kidnappings and robberies
the two assailants [coyotes] remain at large
the prime suspect: Wiley coyote, the coyote wanted for questioning in the deaths
of 2 west end cats
coyote remains a fugitive
it [coyote] escaped and is still on the loose
the brazen intruders
[coyote] outruns and outfoxes authority
they flee on foot
engaged in unprovoked violence
they are roaming around playgrounds…lurking in bushes.
In a related trend, the public reportedly stated:
coyotes train pups to squeeze through balcony railings in pursuit of cats dogs or
the occasional parakeet
coyotes are prowling the neighbourhood
snatching dogs and cats
they are evil dogs and don’t have souls.
Category 5: Human Emotional Experience
Five themes describing human emotions emerged and were consistent with universal emotions
described by Eckman (2003) and Darwin (1872). These emotional response themes were
identified by words used to express the emotion (e.g., I was scared) or inferred by description of
events or people (e.g., she lost her beloved cat, he was like a child to her [and the coyote killed
him]). The emotional themes observed included: fear/surprise, sadness/loss, and others: anger,
disgust, and joy.
Fear/Surprise
The principal emotion reported by media to be experienced by people was fear. In 147
(32.4 %) articles there were 187 references to fear arising from the presence of coyotes or an
incident with coyotes. Forty-four (9.7 %) articles contained 51 references to fear of disease in
coyotes that could affect pets or people. Fear for children’s safety was raised in 73 (16.1 %)
articles. Fear for children extended from one’s own children to fear for daycares and schools, in
general. Examples of fear statements made by the public included:
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I am afraid to let my kids out
the children are at risk
will it take a child being killed before they do something
I don’t let my kids out in the yard anymore.
Fear for self, or others (general public), was found in 35 (7.7 %) articles. In these cases,
people make statements, such as:
I am afraid to go outside
I am afraid to walk alone
people are not safe anymore.
Fear for pets was expressed in 43 (9.5 %) articles, in which people state they were:
afraid to let pets out in the yard
afraid to let pets out of their sight
afraid to walk on their usual trails
have posted warning to other pet owners to be aware
afraid they cannot recover from the loss of their pet.
People stated they were also concerned that they or their pets would contract rabies,
mange, and Giardia (i.e., beaver fever) in 44 (9.7 %) articles. Rabies was exclusively mentioned
in British Columbia and Ontario. Only two articles reported disease incidence: one article quoted
experts who said that there had been 20 positive cases of rabies in Ontario in 2001, and another
quoted experts that there was no evidence of rabies in the Yukon coyote population.
Sadness/Grief
While fear was the dominant reported emotion, sadness/grief was also indicated in some articles.
No direct statements were found about being sad or grieving; however, 17 (3.7 %) articles
allowed inference for sadness/grief by the nature of the comments used (e.g., “he was her
beloved cat”, “the memorial service was a somber affair”). The expressions of sadness and grief
were particularly evident for adults who had pets killed by coyotes, but not so for adults that had
been bitten or observed their children bitten by coyotes. In the latter case, people expressed
anger at management agencies and coyotes, not sadness or grief about the event. One notable
exception was the mother of a young woman who was killed by coyotes in Nova Scotia, in
October 2009; she expressed her grief at the loss of her daughter and denounced the retaliatory
cull of coyotes.
There were 56 articles (12.4 %) with 66 references to pets by their name (e.g. Fifi, Coco).
There were 91 (20.0 %) articles describing a direct interaction between a dog-coyote, and 30
(6.6%) involving cat-coyote (Alexander and Quinn 2011). Direct evidence that the magnitude of
loss was large, and that pets were considered to be family members was based on statements by
the public:
the cat has been her baby
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Fifi was like my baby
he’s like our child
she’s my baby
he’s like a member of the family
it is a great loss for our family
the 108 lb companion who had yet to celebrate his 2
nd
birthday [was killed]
they held a memorial service for the dog
Rocky the beloved pet
her beloved Zoe
he [dog] was recovering from invasive surgery…and is still quite shaken
as a result of the injury “my Sunny is on sick leave”.
Trauma
Trauma was reported in 28 (6.2%) of cases where a human watched their pet be killed by
coyotes. Indirect evidence of trauma included multiple descriptions of a person’s health in terms
of:
anxiety
inability to sleep or insomnia
overwhelming fear
fear to go outside to walk
fear to go into yard
fear for children or pets going outside
feeling like a prisoner in their own home (multiple statements of this)
feeling vulnerable and unable to protect oneself
being in shock
feeling panicked
feel like there is evil lurking in every bush
stating “it was traumatic”
cannot go out without some type of protection (e.g., pepper spray)
feeling paranoid and have to be more vigilant
experienced changes in behavior (e.g., avoiding walking on trails or in parks).
While these words from newspapers cannot be used diagnostically, they are indicative of
traumatic response to an external event (Schiraldi 2000). Notably, there was one instance of
direct evidence (with multiple citations in different articles) where an individual claimed to have
been diagnosed with (PTSD) after witnessing the death of a cat.
Other Emotions: Anger, Disgust, and Happiness
These three additional emotions (anger, disgust, happiness) were expressed and identified as a
theme, but the numbers of articles relating to each was relatively low (<10 articles for each
category). Statements that depicted anger were directed at agencies and coyotes. Examples of
the former include: “this should not have happened, when will they do something, I’ll take it into
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my own hands”. Statements showing the anger towards coyotes include: “they [coyotes] don’t
deserve to live” and “coyotes should be killed if they hurt a pet”.
Evidence of disgust (Johansson and Karlsson 2011) was inferred from descriptions of
coyotes as follows:
a plague
an infestation
like rats
spread disease.
Reports of disgusting acts against coyotes were observed, including: a mutilated coyote
was found in a bag at York University campus, and a mutilated coyotes was hung outside the
door of a Bed and Breakfast after the owner wrote a letter denouncing the coyote cull (2009).
Positive valence was found in very few primary news stories, which was not unexpected
given general newspaper reporting trends towards the negative and dramatic. An example was
enjoyment described through several statements, such as:
we love to watch the coyotes
they are our entertainment
we enjoy listening to coyotes.
Concern for Animal Welfare as Related to Coyotes
Concern for animal welfare was expressed through individual statements in <20 articles, and
included:
reluctant to call the agencies for fear that the coyote would be killed
coyote culls are an an act of cruelty
feeling sick after seeing a coyote killed.
Other evidence showed concern for the health of coyotes, referring to a “the poor mangy
coyote” or indicating that “I don’t want the coyotes to suffer”. One woman tried to rescue an
injured coyote after it was hit by a car, and she was bitten. Some citizens raised concern for
displacement of coyotes, stating that: “we’ve encroached into their habitat” and “we have to
share the world even if we don’t like coyotes”.
Frustration Articulated about the Lack of Response by Agency
Thirty articles (6.6 %), yielded 38 references about citizens who perceived they were ignored by
agencies, experienced a lack of response from agencies, not clear who has jurisdiction, or could
not find centralized information to learn to co-exist. A theme emerged that people are confused
about who is responsible for coyotes, and perceived that agencies “pass the buck” routinely to
other agencies. For example, in Calgary, a resident was quoted as saying that Alberta Fish and
Wildlife told him coyotes are not a priority for officers and he was referred to City of Calgary,
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who indicated they had no jurisdiction to manage coyotes and referred him to Fish and Wildlife.
Another individual from Toronto, Ontario stated: “The humane society won’t remove it, the
SPCA won’t remove it, Fish and Wildlife won’t remove it, the City won’t remove it, why wasn’t
this done before a child was attacked?” Statements indicating frustration include variants on the
following statements:
when are you going to do something
we are frustrated by a lack of clear information on how to deal with coyotes
I contacted the mayor but was referred elsewhere
just get rid of them – it is your job
conservation officers do not return calls
[the government] always answer with ‘well, we live in Canada and there is nothing
we can do about it’
I received no help from any agency
the ministry had a flippant response
[Government] have a complete hands off approach, there is not enough done to make
people aware…why isn’t there a sign?
I’m frustrated - it took me 30 minutes to get a response
I’m upset no-one will do anything
I’m not taken seriously, wildlife officials don’t see the problem, they dropped the
ball, I don’t anticipate any results, they did nothing
We need more conservation officers.
Category 6: Assumptions about Coyotes
Several key assumptions were identified and discussed below. Some of these, particularly the
distribution of coyotes and the extent of hybridization are topics of great debate in current
literature. We present these as potential areas that require better dissemination of information on
the topics, or highlight areas where there is a need for greater research and understanding.
Coyotes are Recent Immigrants to Canada
Several articles described the current and historic distribution of coyotes in Canada and the
coterminous United States. There was an assumption that coyotes are not from Canada but have
migrated in from the south and west, following the European fur trade settlement patterns. The
notion that coyotes are newcomers to many provinces in Canada was evident. Without
verification, articles make specific reference to when coyotes arrived in specific provinces. In
one article coyotes were said to have been present in Ontario for over 100 years. Another article
stated that coyotes did not exist in New Brunswick until the 1950s. Coyotes were identified as
recent immigrants to the west coast of British Columbia and to have arrived in Vancouver in the
early 1980s. Another article stated that coyotes are recent phenomena in cities, with the “first
reported incidents in cities” occurring only 15 years ago.
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Coyotes were considered to have invaded cities and their populations are presented
(without factual verification by reporters) to be:
increasing in numbers and distribution, out of control
growing unchecked for years
experiencing a boom.
Coyotes in Eastern Canada are Hybridized with Dogs and/or Wolves
A common perception is that coyote numbers are increasing, and many coyotes are hybridizing
with dogs (coydogs) and wolves in Eastern Canada. It was also suggested in several articles that
through the expansion, coyotes have interbred with wolves as they move to the east, which has
resulted in a much larger coyote. Without any documented evidence, one article stated that
coydogs are much more common in cities.
Coyotes are Unnatural in Cities
While statements indicated the public and experts both understand coyotes to be a natural part of
an urban ecosystem, and that cities have in many cases been built around existing coyote habitat,
there are many statements that suggest a lack of understanding of the ways in which coyotes may
become part of the urban environment. Experts were identified and aggregated as a group,
including: government biologists or managers (federal, provincial), university faculty in related
biological field, or private sector biologists/ecologists. We acknowledge these individuals may
have different levels of “actual” expertise with respect to coyote ecology and biology; however,
we chose these as an aggregate, because they were the “experts” chosen by the media and advice
tended to be similar. Expert opinion was cited in 324 of 453 (71.5%) of articles, and advice
included:
co-existence is necessary
lethal control is not an effective long term strategy
coyotes are behaving normally when they hunt in cities
feeding coyotes leads to habituation
coyotes have an important role in urban ecosystems.
While most experts articulated that co-existence was the best/only option, there was one
notable exception: a professor at the University of British Columbia reportedly stated that,
“…wild predators cannot peacefully co-exist with people and pets. They eat meat and they don’t
have the ability to march into McDonald’s drive through, so they have to kill it”.
We also found statements by public and experts alike that portrayed coyotes as not
‘natural’ in cities, including:
coyotes invaded cities 15 years ago
a coyote in the city is most likely an outcast
coyotes have adapted to cities
the coyote is a migrant into cities from the American Southwest
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most are smart enough to stay where they belong – usually they stay in the woods
they can thrive in the urban fringes
they have infiltrated cities
coyotes are prowling neighborhoods [like] brazen intruders.
Some phrases indicated that the public perceives behavior that is “natural” in the wild,
such as hunting prey, to be “unnatural” when it occurs in the city. The concept was portrayed in
the descriptions of the results of coyotes hunting in cities:
the horrific sight was a dead deer in the city killed by coyotes
the coyote ravaged a dead rabbit
he ripped apart a $500 Pomeranian dog.
Lastly, there was a sense of powerlessness in the descriptions of coyotes in cities:
we are fighting a losing battle
Toronto has become coyote country
there is nothing they are afraid of
coyotes are brazen intruders in the city.
Coyotes Pose a Great Risk to the Safety of Canadians
As evidenced by the expression of fear for self, children or pets and the stated rationale for
widespread culls within some Canadian provinces, coyotes are un-necessarily targeted as posing
a great risk to people, children and pets. Experts attempted to address these concerns by
providing a context for the risk of a coyote bite, relative to other common injuries: For instance,
experts noted the number of times humans are bitten by dogs each year far exceeds those bitten
by coyotes (e.g., over 300,000 dog bites per year in Canada), that the number of injuries
occurring in homes each year (e.g., hundreds of children’s death by poisoning or insect stings),
or the safety of recreational activities, such as skiing or driving ATVs far exceed the injuries
sustained by contact with coyotes (approximately 3 bites per year) (Alexander and Quinn 2011).
DISCUSSION
Categories 1-4: Media Portrayal of Coyotes
This paper was not designed to test whether or not negative portrayal of coyotes increases
negative sentiment in the public, but to examine the ways in which the media may negatively
stereotype these animals and their interactions with people. The majority of articles reviewed for
this paper were stories of interactions between coyotes, people and pets that were deemed
negative by the human participants. The focus on primary articles herein indicated a potential
selection by the print media for negative encounters as compelling news. Subsequent analysis of
secondary articles and letters to the editor may help to address public response to this apparent
bias. Adjectives and descriptors applied to coyotes were often directed at debasing the character
of the animal (e.g., brazen, wily, vicious and menacing). The lexical choices reported here
reflect a highly judgmental, prejudicial and stereotypical narrative with respect to coyotes.
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Firstly, the word choice is inflammatory, and secondly the behavior of a few individuals is
quickly and easily transferred to coyotes as a species. This is particularly important in the
depiction of coyotes as somehow “infesting”, “invading”, and “marauding”, when the actual risk
of a coyote biting a human in Canada is remarkably low (i.e., less than 3 attacks per year over 10
years). These narrow and misleading portrayals of coyotes can foster and perpetuate
misunderstanding, fear, and negative attitudes toward coyotes (Freeman et al. 2011).
This may be exacerbated when the media uses disparate portrayals of coyotes relative to
human behavior when the two species interact. Loaded descriptions of coyotes leaving people
bloodied, frightened and in shock, or “confronting” people stands in stark contrast to portrayals
of people killing coyotes. Rather than humans attacking, dismembering or killing coyotes, the
terminology used is euphemistic and highly sanitized (i.e., people “cull” or “remove” coyotes).
Details of the remains after a coyote kill only serve to provoke public sentiment that coyotes are
cruel, “leaving guts hanging out” and “ravaging pets”. The portrayal again is highly prejudicial
and could suggest malicious intent on the part of the coyote (Peterson et al. 2010). Despite the
fact that a bullet to the stomach or head might render a coyote “ripped apart”, “bloodied”, with
“guts hanging” out, the media chooses to describe premeditated human acts as “dispatching ” or
“euthanizing” a coyote. Similarly, acts that humans inflict upon coyotes when they kill it, or
after they kill it show great lack of respect for the animal or notions of superiority (Freeman et al.
2011). For example, coyotes were described to have been “hunted to submission”. General fear
might be invoked in the public when individuals describe themselves as “sharpening their knives
and hatchets”, implying they are at war against a threat to public safety – the coyote.
The depiction of coyotes also incorrectly implies a type of conscious and premeditated
malevolent behavior on the part of coyotes (Peterson et al. 2009). Rarely is the behavior
described in ecological terms of predation. The language is reminiscent of that used to describe
premeditated attacks on people by other people. In the case of people killing other people,
perpetrators are protected by laws that prohibit stereotyping by ethnicity or appearance, but in
the case of coyotes there is no opportunity for this distinction. Once portrayed as a killer, the
description extends from the individual coyote to the species by virtue of their perceived
similarity; that is, the conclusion that “a coyote is a coyote” is easy to draw, if one has not had
personal experience with many coyotes or studied animal behavior.
Moreover, language selection in the articles analyzed for this research indicate a trend to
criminalize the actions of coyotes in cities, or to describe the events that follow in words typical
of the pursuit and arrest of criminals. As the language used by the media influences the beliefs
of people (Draheim et al. 2011), especially in the case of coyotes, the descriptions of basic
behavior of coyotes in language that portrays criminal acts, can only create and perpetuate
stereotypes of coyotes as actively undertaking acts against people (Freeman et al. 2011, Peterson
et al. 2010)
The public relies on the media for information regarding socially relevant issues,
including information about urban ecology and wildlife (Freeman et al. 2011). The information
in media reports both reflects and influences the attitudes of people towards coyotes (Draheim et
al. 2011). As such, journalistic standards require subject matter to be portrayed in a fair and
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balanced way that neither stereotypes nor creates prejudice against those involved (Freeman et
al. 2011).
Category 5: The Human Emotional Experience
Emotional reactions to coyotes can be varied and intense (Draheim et al. 2011, Jacobs 2009).
The present analysis examined the reflective experiences of people as portrayed through the
selective lens of the media. We acknowledge that the media select which emotions to portray to
produce a “good story”. Thus, the themes that emerged from the articles were used to identify
the dominant emotions surrounding coyote interactions with people and pets, rather than to
quantify how frequently each emotion is experienced and by whom. The experiences within
each of these emotional classes were described and yielded information vital to helping
managers, scientists, and conservationists understand what people need to improve coexistence
with coyotes.
Fear was the most frequently described as: fear for self, fear for children, fear for pets,
and fear of disease. Johansson and Karlsson (2011) explain that the primary reason people fear
predatory animals is a fear of harm and pain; unlike fear of non-predatory animals where the fear
relates mostly to contamination. Statements reported herein suggest coyotes are feared for both
reasons; coyotes are perceived to be a physical threat through biting or killing, and a health threat
through transfer of disease. Johansson and Karlsson (2011) also suggest that large carnivores are
feared for their size. Interestingly, our analysis showed that people often reported coyotes as
being much larger than they actually are (e.g., reported to be German Shepherd sized).
Importantly, “the experience of fear varies” and can be influenced by several factors
including perception and uncertainty of one’s own reactions (Johansson and Karlsson 2011). As
such, the media portrayal of the effects of an interaction should more clearly depict the actual
risk, the noted extent of injury, provide context for other risks, and help the public understand the
range of choices in behavior that exist with respect to coyotes. Fear based on lack of experience
with coyotes may be rectified to some degree with information and correct portrayal of risk. In
contrast, the inappropriate depiction of risk can instill fear in the public and result in
inappropriate management responses.
People viewed the loss of pets as a sad and significant, often traumatic event. Hence, it is
important to understand that they feel discouraged, frustrated, belittled and abandoned by the
agencies charged with managing coyotes or responding to complaints. Management agencies
can inadvertently create greater frustration and anger by invalidating the significance of a coyote
killing a pet. Unfortunately, this can and has led to people taking action on their own or
advocating widespread killing of coyotes. Two cases illustrate such responses: One individual
erected a 2.5 m high fence, 100 m in length, to surround their house and protect their family from
coyotes; another built a 1.8 m high solid wood and cement fence around the house at a cost of
$80,000.00 (CND). In another case, a Vancouver resident launched a campaign against coyotes
that included suing the City of Vancouver and the Province of British Columbia for negligence
and enacting a policy to co-exist with coyotes that violated her rights to a safe environment. This
individual has become a constant voice rallying support through media and public presentation to
eradicate coyotes (Webster 2007).
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Trauma
There was sufficient reference to being “traumatized” by a negative coyote interaction to warrant
inclusion as a theme. Both symptoms and diagnoses showed strong evidence that many people
suffered symptoms consistent with trauma (Schiraldi 2000). As such, lack validation of the level
of grief, sadness or fear by agencies likely will continue to foster “frustration”, “anger”, or
feelings of being “betrayed” by authorities. This frustration, in turn, may be redirected toward
coyotes and calls for their eradication in cities. There is a strong need for responding agencies to
acknowledge the loss of animals as significant to the individuals.
Other Emotions: Anger/Disgust/Happiness
The lower frequency of statements depicting these emotions does not imply they are of unequal
importance, as they more likely reflect a choice by the media to focus on more sensational
emotions. From the perspective of balanced reporting, it may be useful to include more positive
emotional statements associated with coyotes, which may in turn improve public perception of
the species (Draheim et al. 2010). Depicting how and why individuals get angry or why they
find coyotes disgusting (i.e., disease carriers) may be helpful for improving efforts to co-exist
and public-agency relationships. Perhaps more importantly, efforts need to be made to provide
factual medical information as to the actual types or risks of various infections posed by the
presence of coyotes. In a related article, Watts and Alexander (in review, CATE, 2011) describe
the constituent parasites in urban and rural fecal samples in the Calgary region, which may
provide a basis for understanding the previous risks. In addition, more media coverage of
positive interactions and the reflection of positive emotions regarding coyotes would provide a
more balanced narrative. The public also expressed anger and frustration towards management
agencies for a variety of reasons. Identifying clear lines of authority, creating information
websites (e.g., Living with Coyotes: www.rockies.ca/coyotes, among others), providing targeted
education, and dedicating agency resources to response and prevention of coyote interactions
may improve the situation.
Category 6: Assumptions about Coyotes
Most of the assumptions about coyotes portrayed in the articles can be classified as attempts to
cast the coyote as ‘out of place’ in urban areas or as a source of contamination that threatens
order (Douglas 1966). In either case, the narrative reinforces the nature-culture dualism that
characterizes conceptions of urban and non-urban or civilized and wild (Evernden 1985, Sabloff
2001). The coyote, a wild carnivore in an urban setting, challenges the modernist conceptions
the “proper, morally appropriate, spatial relations between animals and society” (Jerolmack
2008, p. 73). It is the ‘wildness’ juxtaposed against the supposed order of the metropolis that
arises as problematic here. As Livingston (1994) explains:
Wildness receives a good deal of pejorative treatment in our society. It connotes
desolation (usually meaning the absence of people), as well as barbarous savagery and all
else that toes with the “primitive” condition, perhaps especially chaotic unpredictability
and uncontrollability, both of which are anathema to all of the organizing principles of
our technoculture. To be wild is to be ungovernable, which means uncivilized (p. 5).
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It is simply deemed ‘unnatural’ for coyotes to occupy North American cities. Fine and
Christoforides (1991) demonstrate the challenges that ensue when an urban wildlife species (the
English Sparrow) is defined as: 1) a foreigner, 2) that competes unfairly with other species, 3)
that has an immoral character, and 4) needs to be eliminated from the community (see also
Jerolmack, 2008 on pigeons and rats). The co-existence of people and coyotes will require
further examination of how these relationships are cast and received in public discourse.
CONCLUSIONS
Direct interaction between coyotes, people and pets draws considerable attention in the popular
media and provides one window into understanding the nature of human-wildlife relationships in
urban areas. Primary news articles reviewed from the recent Canadian print media
predominantly focused on negative interactions between humans and coyotes. The portrayal of
coyote behavior was often destructively stereotypical with references to depraved character,
malicious intent and criminality. In contrast, human response to address coyote ‘problems’ was
generally sanitized and euphemistic. This public discourse both reflects and influences attitudes
and behaviors toward urban coyotes (and urban ecology in general). We suggest that a more
balanced approach to reporting is required if coexistence with coyotes is to be less acrimonious
in urban settings. Moreover, we concur with Freeman et al. (2011) that “journalists should use
less biased, non-objectifying language, and seek out appropriate human experts who do not have
a vested interest in animal use and can advocate for their interests” (p. 13). For example, along
with addressing the language in news reports of negative human-coyote encounters, we
recommend that the media consider running stories on positive encounters with coyotes and
urban wildlife so as not to bias public sentiment through a focus on negative interactions. While
it is possible that changing how coyotes are portrayed in the media may not directly lead to co-
existence, the media does have a role to play in moderating the risk people associate with
coyotes.
The complex social-ecological systems that define urban ecosystems will continue to
include the highly adaptable coyote. Education and proactive management intervention will be
required to ensure an acceptable level of coexistence between people and coyotes. The potential
for interactions causing significant injury or fatalities results in real fears amongst the public.
The control and supervision of pets and children in urban protected areas requires active
intervention by park managers and greater awareness and knowledge from park users. Urban
ecology authorities need to work along with the media to ensure that useful and accurate
information is being communicated to the public on these issues. Examination of media content
provides a mechanism for wildlife authorities and environmental managers to gauge and respond
to public sentiment.
In addition, 6.2% of pet owners report symptoms of traumatic responses (and in one case
PTSD), which raises some important management implications surrounding the response or
handling of these incidents. Humans now view pets as family members and thereby the loss of
the animal has the significance of a loss of a child to some individuals. As a result, response by
agencies should reflect a level of concern for these losses and address the issue with appropriate
regard. Despite the difficulty in relating to this condition for all involved, the loss is real for the
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individual. Again, how these issues are addressed by the authorities and how they are reported
by the media is extremely important.
Finally, if society is truly committed to the design and management of urban spaces so as
to enhance rather than detract ecosystem function (Steiner 2011), then we need to address the
nature-culture apartheid that is revealed in the narratives exemplified in the material reviewed for
this paper. As Sandlos (1998) notes:
in an important sense, the coyote’s survival represents an evocative challenge to the
ordered and developed world imagined by advocates of human-centred progress, and
offers North America’s colonizers an alternative conceptual space to live in association
with, rather than against a spontaneous and ecstatic vision of wild nature (p. 51).
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... How the media react when several of these rare but fatal events occur in quick succession has seldom been subject to quantitative analysis by conservation scientists and managers. Such analysis is necessary because media portrayal of sharks, shark bites, and episodes of successive bite events can both reflect and influence public understanding of perceived levels of risk, which, in turn, can influence conservation policies and marine wildlife management (Slovic et al. 2004;Gore and Knuth 2009;Alexander and Quinn 2012). ...
... By cultivating, framing, agenda-setting, and risk amplification, mass media can both shape public understanding, emotional experiences, perceived levels of wildlife-risk, and influence political decisions and public campaigns for wildlife conservation (McCombs and Shaw 1972;Wolch et al. 1997;Slovic et al. 2004;Gore and Knuth 2009;Freeman et al. 2011;Alexander and Quinn 2012). This can work in both negative and positive ways. ...
... The media has long been recognised to reflect popular views (Katz and Lazarsfeld 1955;Jensen 2003;Gans 2004) and influence social attitudes about outcomes of wildlife and conservation policy (Wolch et al. 1997;Muter et al. 2009;Jacobson et al. 2012). Media content analyses are increasingly being used in wildlife-human conflicts to better improve the understanding of the social aspect of conflicts and provide tools for managing these conflicts (Krippenddorf 2004;Jacques 2010;Alexander and Quinn 2012;Jacobson et al. 2012;Rust 2015). As with other predators involved in human-wildlife encounters (Corbett 1992;Gore and Knuth 2009), most humans will not come across sharks, but will most likely rely on media portrayals of sharks to determine the level of risk they pose to public amenity. ...
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Encounters between humans and wildlife that result in human fatalities can generate public anxiety and increase pressure on conservation managers and governments for risk mitigation. Low probability-high consequence events such as shark bites on humans attract substantial media attention for short time periods, but how the media react when several of these rare but fatal events occur in quick succession has seldom been subject to quantitative analysis. Understanding media portrayal of such encounters is important because it both reflects and influences public perceptions of risks, mitigation measures, and conservation policies. This study examined media portrayals of sharks between 2011 and 2013 in the state of Western Australia during which six shark bites resulting in fatalities occurred. We analysed 361 shark-related articles published in major Western Australian newspapers over 26 months to trace changes in media reporting about sharks prior to, during, and after the six fatalities. The findings indicate that when rare, but fatal human-wildlife events occur in quick succession, negative framing by media of wildlife behaviour and threats can exaggerate public anxiety about the pervasive presence of wildlife predators and high risk of human fatalities. The study highlights the need for government agencies and conservation scientists to better engage with media to provide accurate and effective information and advice to swimmers and surfers about shark ecology and behaviour.
... How the media react when several of these rare but fatal events occur in quick succession has seldom been subject to quantitative analysis by conservation scientists and managers. Such analysis is necessary because media portrayal of sharks, shark bites, and episodes of successive bite events can both reflect and influence public understanding of perceived levels of risk, which, in turn, can influence conservation policies and marine wildlife management (Slovic et al. 2004;Gore and Knuth 2009;Alexander and Quinn 2012). ...
... By cultivating, framing, agenda-setting, and risk amplification, mass media can both shape public understanding, emotional experiences, perceived levels of wildlife-risk, and influence political decisions and public campaigns for wildlife conservation (McCombs and Shaw 1972;Wolch et al. 1997;Slovic et al. 2004;Gore and Knuth 2009;Freeman et al. 2011;Alexander and Quinn 2012). This can work in both negative and positive ways. ...
... The media has long been recognised to reflect popular views (Katz and Lazarsfeld 1955;Jensen 2003;Gans 2004) and influence social attitudes about outcomes of wildlife and conservation policy (Wolch et al. 1997;Muter et al. 2009;Jacobson et al. 2012). Media content analyses are increasingly being used in wildlife-human conflicts to better improve the understanding of the social aspect of conflicts and provide tools for managing these conflicts (Krippenddorf 2004;Jacques 2010;Alexander and Quinn 2012;Jacobson et al. 2012;Rust 2015). As with other predators involved in human-wildlife encounters (Corbett 1992;Gore and Knuth 2009), most humans will not come across sharks, but will most likely rely on media portrayals of sharks to determine the level of risk they pose to public amenity. ...
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Full-text available
Encounters between humans and wildlife that result in human fatalities can generate public anxiety and increase pressure on conservation managers and governments for risk mitigation. Low probability-high consequence events such as shark bites on humans attract substantial media attention for short time periods, but how the media react when several of these rare but fatal events occur in quick succession has seldom been subject to quantitative analysis. Understanding media portrayal of such encounters is important because it both reflects and influences public perceptions of risks, mitigation measures, and conservation policies. This study examined media portrayals of sharks between 2011 and 2013 in the state of Western Australia during which six shark bites resulting in fatalities occurred. We analysed 361 shark-related articles published in major Western Australian newspapers over 26 months to trace changes in media reporting about sharks prior to, during, and after the six fatalities. The findings indicate that when rare, but fatal human-wildlife events occur in quick succession, negative framing by media of wildlife behaviour and threats can exaggerate public anxiety about the pervasive presence of wildlife predators and high risk of human fatalities. The study highlights the need for government agencies and conservation scientists to better engage with media to provide accurate and effective information and advice to swimmers and surfers about shark ecology and behaviour.
... Particular land cover/use (Gehrt et al., 2009;Grubbs and Krausman, 2009), proximity to water (Arjo and Pletscher, 2004;Atwood et al., 2004), lower path density (Wallace, 2013), and particular aspects have previously been preferentially selected by coyotes excepting off-leash dog parks. Off-leash dog parks were added for expert evaluation because the local coyote experts of the Calgary urban coyote group suspected its influence on coyote ecology due to dogs and coyotes entering into conflict in these areas (Alexander and Quinn, 2011). ...
... Off-leash dog areas were considered as a percentage because although bylaws require dogs to be on-leash outside these areas, owners do not always leash their dogs. Most aggressive interactions with coyotes have been recorded to occur in off-leash situations with smaller dogs (Alexander and Quinn, 2011) and although most of the experts interpreted off-leash dogs as negative for suitability, one considered them to be a positive food source. ...
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The rapid development and expansion of cities prompts significant species declines and changes in wildlife population, behavior, and genetic flow. In some fragmenting landscapes, conservation managers have engaged in functional connectivity (FC) initiatives as a countermeasure. It can help identify areas to focus de-fragmentation and area characteristics (width, composition) that are crucial for animal dispersal through cities. However, its application in urban environments for this purpose is very recent.In this study, the trends of FC for urban wildlife were reviewed; a GIS-multicriteria fuzzy logic expert consensus approach for modeling expert knowledge to form group consensus opinions was developed; and seasonal changes in FC for coyotes in the city of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, were evaluated.The suitability models produced from the consensus approach were validated with empirical data and used to assess FC for urban coyotes. FC validated with road mortality data was only significant during the dispersal period and not during pup-rearing or breeding. This dispersal period network likely reflected transient and disperser connectivity not resident. Priority areas and their connectivity contributions identified from this study can help inform the direction of City of Calgary urban green infrastructure development.
... For example, news stories that pique curiosity, spark debate or elicit other emotional responses through repetitively highlighting a certain narrative can influence how people might interpret and internalize information (Downs, 1972;McCombs, 2014). News stories about human-shark interactions (Pepin-Neff & Wynter, 2018), coyotes or wolves (Alexander & Quinn, 2011;Houston, Bruskotter, & Fan, 2010) or leopards and panthers (Bhatia, Athreya, Grenyer, & MacDonald, 2013;Jacobson, Langin, Carlton, & Kain, 2011) are examples of media coverage emphasizing the threats carnivores can pose, which may invoke or perpetuate fear, but can also highlight proactive conservation action to benefit these and other species (Bhatia et al., 2013;Gore, Siemer, Shanahan, Scheufele, & Decker, 2005;Muter, Gord, & Riley, 2009;Muter, Gore, Gledhill, Lamont, & Huveneers, 2012;Sabatier & Huveneers, 2018). ...
... Media content analysis offers a systematic method to examine the content of news stories and their potential to influence public perception toward wildlife conservation (Alexander & Quinn, 2011;Franzosi, 2007;Krippendorf, 2004;Stemple, 2003). This includes identifying how "newsworthy" content is framed and agendas are set (Lakoff, 2010;McCombs, 2014;Price, Tewksbury, & Powers, 1997;Reese, Gandy, & Grant, 2001). ...
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Across their North American range, grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) occupy a special place in human imagination, as icons of nature's rugged and raw power, to representations of safety risks and economic costs of living with carnivores. Different bear representations can also be found across news media, from controversial and sensational descriptions of attacks, tragic events and conflicts, to scientific accounts of conservation research. News media certainly has the power to pique curiosity, spark debate, or elicit emotional responses through framing and repetition of content. In turn, news stories can influence how people might interpret and internalize information about grizzly bears. Using media content analysis, we examined newsprint stories on grizzly bears across their North American range between 2000 and 2016, to understand message framing and attention cycle, as well as attitudinal expression and representative anecdote conveyed to the readership. We found that human–bear conflict stories are over‐reported compared to other narratives, where a single incidence garners more attention than a story about new scientific findings. We also found articles that included hunting frames largely originated in Alberta, likely due to the threatened species listing and hunting moratorium. Attitudinal expressions included ecological, negative or neutral, and moral sentiments toward bears. The most common representative anecdote conveyed to the readership reflected the dire state faced by grizzly bears. The bear eco‐gossip expressed in the articles we reviewed, which included clear protagonists and antagonists and the occasional man‐bites‐bear surprise, appears to be the diet of manufactured information fed to the public. Results of our study can help scientists and conservationists understand how news media portrays grizzly bears to the public and how this might influence public sentiment toward their conservation, but also identifies the roles that scientists, conservationists and journalists together can play in crafting effective, factual and engaging news stories about bears.
... We hypothesized that WVOs are not related to the acceptance of management actions for mid-size predators because some of the species are uncommon (Hartel et al., 2015;Reimer et al., 2014) and the species may have less economic and societal value to humans compared to hunted or more charismatic species evaluated previously in the literature (Macdonald et al., 2015;McGinlay et al., 2017). We also hypothesized that the type of species would be associated with acceptance of lethal and non-lethal management actions because perceptions of fear and conflict are likely to differ, which may be explained by variations in commonality, societal opinion, and media presentation (Alexander & Quinn, 2012;Bateman & Flemming, 2012;Fox, 2006). ...
... Glas (2016) qualitatively evaluated these assumptions, and found the public views otters as harmless, often attributing child-like anthropomorphisms to the species. Apparent aversion for coyotes may be explained by greater fear of the species due to their size, comparisons to wolves, or negative media portrayal (Alexander & Quinn, 2012;Reiter, Brunson, & Schmidt, 1999). With few exceptions, management acceptance for fox, badger, skunk, and raccoon were similar. ...
Article
Wildlife managers can use wildlife value orientations (WVOs) to help predict public acceptance of management actions. However, WVOs may only be effective if they have high predictive value and research on small and non-charismatic wildlife has indicated this is not universally true. In this paper, we report the findings of a survey (n= 376) that evaluated the predictive value of WVOs (domination and mutualism) for six mid-size predator species across three conflict scenarios (no conflict, property damage, threats to humans/pets) and four management actions (do nothing, trap and relocate, citizen lethal trap/hunt, lethal removal by control experts). WVOs explained the most variance for lethal management actions (citizens hunt/trap 22–40%; experts lethally remove 14–31%), and least for trapping and relocating (<1–10%). Species was related to the predictive power of WVOs, as the most variation was explained for coyotes, and least for otters. Findings demonstrate that WVOs provide valuable insights for management decision-making.
... 144). Although these statements suggest a growing tolerance of coyotes, an increasing number of attacks (Baker & Timm, 2017) and negative evaluations of coyotes in the media (Alexander & Quinn, 2012) may reverse this trend. As Gehrt (2004) equivocally stated, 'Although the sight or sound of a coyote elicits fear in some residents, it often produces more favorable responses in others ' (p. ...
... Participants feared the supposedly wild nature of these animals (Rose & Wilson, in press). Alexander and Quinn (2012) analysis of the portrayal of coyotes in Canadian media found that, regardless of the actual hazard posed by coyotes, they were often labelled negatively based on the actions of a few individuals and that coyotes were often described as bold, brazen, and wily criminals with malicious intent. But how dangerous are they to humans and pets? ...
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This mixed methods study explores the relative preference people in the United States have for sharing leisure space in their local urban parks with coyotes. Two rounds of survey data (n= 482) and a series of interviews (n= 28) were conducted. In both survey samples, people preferred to share park space with coyotes less than all other species options (e.g., people experiencing homelessness, off-leashdogs). Interview data suggest that the primary reason for this lack of desire to share park space with coyotes is a perception that coyotes are dangerous for people and pets. This strong level of preference against coyotes has implications for current efforts to promote human-wildlife coexistence strategies in many urban and peri-urban locations.
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Shark attacks have increased globally and are one of the most widely reported human-wildlife conflicts. Reflecting global trends, the number of recorded attacks has increased in Australian waters. Whether positively or negatively affected, stakeholders potentially often pressure authorities to mitigate economic and human risks when developing shark management policies. This article used discourse analysis to review how attitudes toward management approaches were attributed in Australian newspapers to a range of stakeholders. The most frequently attributed stakeholders were journalists and public office holders; victims, commercial operators, and scientists were least attributed. Although most measures were portrayed as supported by a majority of stakeholders, there was apparent misalignment between reported public and policymaker attitudes, especially regarding lethal control. Despite the ramifications (e.g., social, biological) of shark management and policymaking, reporting of science-informed facts and use of scientists to inform debate were low. Opportunities exist for increased engagement among scientists, journalists, and policymakers.
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Human-wildlife conflicts are one of the most important challenges in nature conservation. Conflicts get worse when it is public administration itself that wants to reintroduce a large carnivore such as the brown bear, persecuted historically, for conservation purposes. Defenders of reintroduction argue that the recuperation of species including large predators implies very positive effects for the ecosystem because they restore the trophic balance. On the other hand, detractors maintain that coexistence between rural productive activities and such carnivores is not possible, this is the reason why brown bears were persecuted in the past. Studies proved that percentages between defenders and detractors depend on variables such as professional dedication, site of residence and levels of knowledge. Determining these percentages for a territory and its main variables is essential to design a strategy for reintroduction. In Catalonia, very few social perception studies in relation to predator species were done, but this study has noted that 80% of respondents agreed with the reintroduction of a new brown bear, while this percentage for local residents declines to 47%. Also, knowing the predation patterns of the brown bear could help select the most suitable prevention measures. It was demonstrated that there is a significant relationship between an attacked flock and their proximity to fir and oak forests and to the potential ecological corridors of the brown bear.
Article
Articles E cologists have long debated what factors control the trophic (feeding) structure and function of ecosystems. This is more than just a matter of determining "who eats whom"; ecologists have pondered whether there are fundamental rules for determining (a) how many trophic levels an ecosystem can support, (b) how much primary production is consumed by herbivores, and (c) whether resources from the bottom of the food chain, or consumers from the top, control biomass, abundance, and species diversity in food webs. These questions are not only fundamental to ecology but essential for conservation and management. For example, the loss of a top predator in a food web that is largely controlled by top-down forces may drastically alter biodiversity and ecosystem function (e.g., nutrient cycling), whereas the same loss may have little effect in a resource-controlled (i.e., bottom-up) food web. To answer these questions, ecologists have expended an enormous effort to understand the relative importance of pre-dation or parasitism (and, to a lesser extent, mutualism) and competition for resources in trophic organization. Three basic models of control of trophic structure have emerged from this endeavor. The first of these, the energetic model of food webs, holds that energy supply (from the bottom of food webs), in concert with the relative efficiencies of consumers, limits the number of trophic levels and the relative biomass of each level in natural ecosystems (Lindeman 1942). The second model, commonly known as the "green world" hypothesis (Hairston et al. 1960), states that predators and parasites exert top-down control on herbivore populations. According to this model, herbivores do not generally compete with each other, and plant resources are not limiting because herbivore population densities remain low as a result of top-down control. The third model (Menge and Sutherland 1987) hypothesizes that the relative effects of predation on species diversity vary as a function of environmental stress (e.g., exposure, desiccation, extreme temperatures) and productivity. Specifically, the Menge-Sutherland model suggests that pre-dation should be more important at low and intermediate levels of stress, because high stress limits the abundance of predators more than it limits herbivore competitors. Competition for resources should be more important at high levels of stress (and low levels of productivity). Various modifications and elaborations of these three basic models of food webs and trophic structure have proliferated in the past several decades (Oksanen et al. 1981, Power 1992). Empirical tests of the food web models, and modifications thereof, have been conducted mostly in non-human-dominated ecosystems ranging from marine environments to freshwater lakes and streams, tundra, deserts, forests, and grasslands, each test often producing a different answer (Con-nell 1983, Schoener 1983, Sih et al. 1985). Empirical tests and the development of theory for food web dynamics have historically involved human-dominated ecosystems, such as agroecosystems (Rosenheim 1998), or recovering agricul-Stanley H. Human activities dramatically change the abundance, diversity, and composition of species. However, little is known about how the most intense human activity, urbanization, alters food webs and trophic structure in biological communities. Studies of the Phoenix area, situated amid the Sonoran Desert, reveal some surprising alterations in the control of trophic dynamics. Species composition is radically altered, and resource subsidies increase and stabilize productivity. Changes in productivity dampen seasonal and yearly fluctuations in species diversity, elevate abundances, and alter feeding behaviors of some key urban species. In urban systems-in contrast to the trophic systems in outlying deserts, which are dominated by limiting resources-predation by birds becomes the dominant force controlling arthropods on plants. Reduced predation risk elevates the abundance of urban birds and alters their foraging behavior such that they exert increased top-down effects on arthropods. Shifts in control of food web dynamics are probably common in urban ecosystems, and are influenced by complex human social processes and feedbacks.
Article
It is unsurprising, then, that the human relationship to the western coyote followed a progression, moving from the first random assault of early hunters to a more systematized and apocalyptic process perpetuated by the centralized state. The origins of this evolving relationship can be traced, somewhat paradoxically, to the emerging wildlife conservation movement and its efforts ro reconcile the habitat needs of game animals with the voracious appetites of late 19th and early 20th century industrial capitalism. The views of sport hunting conservationists such as Forest and Stream editor George Bird Grinnell were typical of the times, a public lament for the decline of the big game in the West due to the 'predatory' nature of unrestrained industrial development and the unregulated wild meat market. Coming as it did on the heels of America's gilded age of industrial progress, the critique of Grinnell and others represents a somewhat startling realization: laissez-faire capitalism had the potential to produce a world without wildlife. The market dictates of self-interest could no longer, in the eyes of the budding conservationist, serve as an adequate basis for humanity's relationship to nature because, according to Donald Worster, there was a perception that 'capitalist democracy is biocidal'.
Chapter
Cities are complex ecological systems dominated by humans. The human elements make them different from natural ecosystems in many ways. From an ecological perspective, urban ecosystems differ from natural ones in several respects: in their climate, soil, hydrology, species composition, population dynamics, and flows of energy and matter (Rebele 1994, Collins et al. 2000, Pickett et al. 2001). Humans create distinctive ecological patterns, processes, disturbances, and subtle effects (McDonnel et al. 1993). Planners must consider all these factors in order to effectively plan cities that will be ecologically resilient. Managing these systems requires an understanding of the mechanisms that link human and ecological processes and control their dynamics and evolution. Because change is an inherent property of ecological systems, the capacity of urban ecosystems to respond and adapt to these changes is an important factor in making cities sustainable over the long term (Alberti and Marzluff 2004).
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This article outlines a rigorous method for studying the ways that news media frame contentious issues. The method is based on the VBPro family of computer programs for content analysis. Output from the VBPro mapping program for multidimensional scaling based on co-occurence of key terms is cluster analyzed to discern the frames or points of view in texts that can unambiguously be attributed to competing stakeholders. These frames can be used to investigate propositions about news stories. An example is presented from a study of 1,465 Associated Press articles on wetlands dispatched across an 11-year period beginning in 1982. The results demonstrate that the method provides an objective means of investigating stakeholder influence on news and patterns of change in frames across time.