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Human dimensions are a critical part of large carnivore conservation. We investigated how the historical presence of wolves (Canis lupus) influences public attitudes toward the carnivore and its management in rural areas of Poland. From March 2016 to March 2017, we used a self-administered questionnaire to assess attitudes of rural residents (n = 292) and foresters (n = 325) in 6 regions where wolves have either been continuously present, or where they have recently recovered after a period of absence. While we found that attitudes toward wolves were generally neutral or positive, differences in attitudes did exist across target groups and regions with long and short histories of wolf presence. Foresters tended to have more negative attitudes toward wolves than did rural residents, and their attitudes remained stable across regions. In contrast, rural residents from the regions with an uninterrupted history of wolf presence, which also suffer greater rates of livestock depredation, tended to have less positive attitudes than did residents from regions where wolves have recovered more recently. Knowledge of wolves and wildlife value orientations were also positive predictors of attitudes. Negative attitudes among local residents and lower support for wolf conservation in response to wolf attacks on livestock could be a major obstacle for the continued recovery of wolves in Europe. Our results reinforce the need for proactive approaches, involving both information campaigns and actions to mitigate wolf predation on livestock, to maintain local support for wolf conservation.
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Wildlife Society Bulletin 112; 2019; DOI: 10.1002/wsb.1027
Original Article
Recent Arrivals or Established Tenants?
History of Wolf Presence Inuences Attitudes
Toward the Carnivore
Unit of Molecular Zoology, Chair of Zoology, Department of Animal Science, Technical University of Munich, HansCarl
vonCarlowitzPlatz 2, D85354 Freising, Germany
KATARZYNA BOJARSKA, Institute of Nature Conservation, Polish Academy of Sciences, Mickiewicza 33, 31120 Cracow, Poland
ROMAN GULA, Museum and Institute of Zoology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Wilcza 64, 00679 Warsaw, Poland
Unit of Molecular Zoology, Chair of Zoology, Department of Animal Science, Technical University of Munich, HansCarlvon
CarlowitzPlatz 2, D85354 Freising, Germany
ABSTRACT Human dimensions are a critical part of large carnivore conservation. We investigated how the
historical presence of wolves (Canis lupus)inuences public attitudes toward the carnivore and its manage-
ment in rural areas of Poland. From March 2016 to March 2017, we used a selfadministered questionnaire to
assess attitudes of rural residents (n=292)and foresters (n=325)in 6 regions where wolves have either been
continuously present, or where they have recently recovered after a period of absence. While we found that
attitudes toward wolves were generally neutral or positive, dierences in attitudes did exist across target groups
and regions with long and short histories of wolf presence. Foresters tended to have more negative attitudes
toward wolves than did rural residents, and their attitudes remained stable across regions. In contrast, rural
residents from the regions with an uninterrupted history of wolf presence, which also suer greater rates of
livestock depredation, tended to have less positive attitudes than did residents from regions where wolves have
recovered more recently. Knowledge of wolves and wildlife value orientations were also positive predictors of
attitudes. Negative attitudes among local residents and lower support for wolfconservation in response to wolf
attacks on livestock could be a major obstacle for the continued recovery of wolves in Europe. Our results
reinforce the need for proactive approaches, involving both information campaigns and actions to mitigate
wolf predation on livestock, to maintain local support for wolf conservation. © 2019 The Authors. Wildlife
Society Bulletin published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of The Wildlife Society.
KEY WORDS attitudes, Canis lupus, human dimensions, humanwildlife conict, large carnivore conservation,
Poland, wolf recovery.
Wolf (Canis lupus)recovery is often accompanied by intense
debate (Carter and Linnell 2016). Whereas some people
celebrate wolves as a symbol of wild nature (Fritts et al.
2003), others loathe the predator as a killer of livestock and
competitor for game (Breitenmoser 1998, Linnell et al.
2000). Understanding public attitudes toward wolves is
therefore essential to guide management decisions, address
humanwildlife conicts, and design eective education
programs (Bath 2013). We investigated how the historical
presence of wolves in a region inuences local attitudes
toward the carnivore and its management in Poland.
Previous research in North America and Europe shows
that peoples attitudes toward wolves are inuenced by the
presence and proximity of wolf populations. People living in
regions where wolves occur tend to be less supportive of
wolf conservation than people living far away from wolf
populations (Williams et al. 2002, Ericsson and Heberlein
2003, Karlsson and Sjöström 2007, Hermann and Menzel
2013). Negative attitudes among people in areas where
wolves are present may be driven by direct and indirect
experience. Residents living close to wolf territories are
more likely to be confronted with humancarnivore con-
icts, either through rsthand experience, or perhaps more
commonly, indirectly through personal contacts or local
Received: 28 November 2017; Accepted: 4 July 2019
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons
AttributionNonCommercialNoDerivs License, which permits use and
distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly
cited, the use is noncommercial and no modications or adaptations
are made.
Present address: Institute of Forest Management, TUM School of Life
Sciences Weihenstephan, Technical University of Munich, HansCarl
vonCarlowitzPlatz 2, D85354 Freising, Germany.
Joint aliation: Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation
Ecology, New Mexico State University, Box 30003, MSC 4901, Las
Cruces, NM 880038003, USA.
Gosling et al. Attitudes Toward Wolves 1
media reports. Greater exposure to negative information
about wolves is likely to reduce local residentsacceptance of
the predator and erode their support for wolf conservation
(Ericsson and Heberlein 2003, Karlsson and Sjöström 2007,
Eriksson et al. 2015). As a major source of humancarnivore
conict, livestock depredation can mediate the link between
wolf presence in a region, experience with the carnivore, and
local attitudes.
In addition to direct eects of wolves, underlying cultural
conicts may shape local opinions about wolves and wolf
policy in rural areas. For example, in many regions around
the world, wolves have become a symbol of the ruralurban
divide. Rural residents may view policies to reintroduce or
protect wolves as a threat to agriculture, and thus to tradi-
tional rural ways of life (Eriksson 2016). Negative attitudes
toward wolves and opposition to wolf conservation in rural
communities may in part reect resistance to an urban
majority imposing its conservation values on a rural mi-
nority (Ericsson and Heberlein 2003, Fritts et al. 2003,
Chapron et al. 2014, Eriksson et al. 2015).
The historical context of wolf presence may also inuence
both direct (e.g., depredation)and indirect (e.g., cultural)
drivers of attitudes in wolf areas. It has been postulated that
residentsmay be more accepting of large carnivores in regions
where predators have been continuously present compared
with regions where they recently returned after a period of
extinction (Williams et al. 2002, Fritts et al. 2003).Inplaces
where wolves or other large carnivores have always persisted,
local people may have retained adaptations to coexist and
cope with the predators, such as animal husbandry practices
that reduce depredation, thereby minimizing wolflivestock
conicts and contributing to a local culture that is more ac-
cepting of large carnivores: evidence from Austria, Estonia,
Italy, and Finland supports this hypothesis (Zeiler et al. 1999,
Randveer 2006, Bisi et al. 2007, Bath 2009). In contrast, in
regions where large carnivores have been absent for a long
period, local traditions for coexistence may be lost and people
may no longer accept predators as part of the natural system
(Breitenmoser 1998, von Arx et al. 2004). The return of large
carnivores to these regions is likely to spark social conicts,
which can contribute to hostility toward the new arrivals
(Chapron et al. 2014, Dressel et al. 2014).
Studies investigating how local peoples attitudes change
over time after carnivores return to an area have yielded
somewhat inconsistent ndings. Studies in Norway, for
example, suggest a peak in negative attitudes when large
carnivores rst arrive in a region, followed by a gradual im-
provement in attitudes as people become more familiar and
experienced with living with predators (Zimmermann et al.
2001). However, other European studies suggest that peoples
attitudes toward wolves steadily become less positive the
longer people coexist with them (Dressel et al. 2014).
In Poland, wolves have a history of persecution and re-
covery, providing the chance to explore how historical wolf
presence can inuence local attitudes toward the carnivore. By
the early 1900s statesanctioned eradication campaigns had
eliminated wolves from most of Poland except a few forested
regions in the east of the country (Wolsan et al. 1992,
Okarma 1993). During the world wars, wolf numbers began
to recover (Wolsan et al. 1992), but renewed eradication
eorts after WWII had reduced wolves in Poland to <100
individuals by the early 1970s (Okarma 1993). In 1975, the
status of the wolf was upgraded from pest to game species,
which allowed hunting with rearms only (no poisoning or
trapping),withanationwide 4month closed season in-
troduced in 1981 (Okarma 1993). The wolf population
subsequently recovered to an estimated 700900 individuals
by the mid1990s, but wolves were still rare in western Poland
(Okarma 1993, Gula 2008a, Nowak and Mysłajek 2017).In
1995, the wolf was declared a protected species in most of
Poland, and full protection from hunting was extended to the
whole country by 1998 (Gula 2008a). Since 2000, numbers in
western Poland began to recover to the point where local
people became aware of the presence of wolves in the forests
(Gula 2008c, Nowak and Mysłajek 2017).
Previous studies provide some insight into public attitudes
toward wolves in dierent regions of Poland. A study of
residents in northeast Poland, a region where wolves have
always persisted, reported high acceptance of wolves, al-
though only 24% of respondents would accept wolves within
10 km of their home (Balčiauskas et al. 2007). Another
study targeting farmers, hunters, foresters, and teenagers
found no relationship between wolf presence in a region and
local attitudes (Olszańska 2012). However, this measure of
attitudes did not include beliefs about the negative eects of
wolves or support for wolf conservation. Studies have not
yet targeted rural communities in Poland in areas where
wolves have recently recovered after being rare or absent for
a long period. Understanding public attitudes toward wolves
in these areas is particularly important because these com-
munities may be more likely to face wolfrelated conicts.
We investigated attitudes toward wolves and wolf man-
agement in regions with dierent histories of wolf presence
in Poland. We focused on the attitudes of people living in
the areas where wolves occur, including foresters working
directly in wolf habitat, and aim to answer the following
research question: is there a dierence in attitudes between
regions where wolves have been continuously present and
regions where wolf recovery has occurred more recently?
Six study areas were included in the survey (Fig. 1): 3 regions
in the far east of Poland where wolves, despite eradication
eorts, had been continuously present (regions 13);and
3 regions west of the Vistula River where wolf populations
had recently recovered after being rare or only sporadically
present for a long period (regions 46).Wedened regions
east of the Vistula River as having a long history of wolf
presence(meaning wolves have been continuously present in
relatively high numbers), and regions west of the Vistula as
having a short history of wolf presence(meaning sporadic
wolf presence until around the year 2000, after which wolf
presence became conspicuous to the public).
Estimated wolf densities were similar across the study
sites: between 2.7 and 3.7 wolves/100 km
(Gula 2008b,
Jędrzejewski et al. 2008, Gula et al. 2018; K. Bojarska and
2 Wildlife Society Bulletin
R. Gula et al., Polish Academy of Sciences, unpublished
data), except for Drawsko where the density was lower (1.1
wolves/100 km
; Mysłajek et al. 2018), but this may be due
to dierences in estimation methods. Both human pop-
ulation and livestock density were greater in regions west of
the Vistula River compared with the 3 eastern regions.
Despite more livestock being present, depredation rates
were negligible west of the Vistula, partly because livestock
in these regions tend to be kept indoors, which reduces the
risk of wolf depredation. In contrast livestock usually graze
outdoors in the 3 eastern regions, where wolf attacks on
livestock were common. For example, from 2014 to 2016
wolves killed an average of 192 animals/year in Bieszczady
(Central Statistical Oce 2014, 2015, 2016).
We used a factorial design (2×2)to investigate the inu-
ence of wolf history of a region (short, long)on attitudes
toward wolves and wolf management of 2 interest groups
(rural residents, foresters)in Poland. We dene rural resi-
dents as people living in villages within the study areas, and
foresters as employees of the State Forests National Forest
Holding whose duties involve regularly working in the
Foresters were included in the study because they repre-
sent a key interest group for wolf conservation. Foresters
are responsible for managing the majority of wolf habitat
in Poland and the only organized service present on an
everyday basis in wolf territories across Poland (Gula
2008a). In some regions, foresters are also responsible for
game management (including wolf prey), further under-
lining the relevance of this interest group for wolf con-
servation eorts. Foresters in this survey also lived in the
study areas, so they can be viewed as a subset of rural resi-
dents. In light of forestersclose ties to wolf habitat and
management, however, and coupled with the strong or-
ganizational culture of the State Forests Holding, we
expected to nd dierences in attitudes toward wolves be-
tween foresters and other rural residents.
We measured attitudes using a selfadministered ques-
tionnaire. Within each region, we targeted approximately 50
rural residents and 50 foresters. The minimum age for par-
ticipation in the survey was 16 years. We were concerned that
a postal survey would result in a very low response rate, so we
distributed questionnaires to rural residents via wolf biolo-
gists working in each area. These biologists used a mix of
methods to distribute the survey either personally or, in most
cases, via people not associated with wolf research, including
contacting neighbors and acquaintances in person, going
doortodoor in the villages, and distributing the ques-
tionnaire at community meetings and local businesses. We
sampled foresters via forestry district oces; questionnaires
were either distributed to and completed by foresters during
meetings or given to the forest district manager for dis-
tribution among employees and collected at a later date. We
added to the forester group 31 rural residents who identied
themselves as a forester in the questionnaire. Before they
completed the questionnaire, we provided respondents with
information about the purpose of the research and informed
them that their participation was voluntary and all responses
were anonymous and condential. We collected data from
March 2016 to March 2017.
Although we did not measure the response rate among
rural residents and foresters, we expected it to be very high.
Persons distributing the questionnaire reported that few
people declined to do the survey. Furthermore, the hier-
archical nature of the Polish forestry authority coupled with
foresterslong tradition of following requests from author-
ities (Lawrence 2009, Olszańska 2012)make it likely that
they would have completed the questionnaire when asked by
their manager.
Questionnaire Design
The questionnaire contained 54 questions in 6 sections,
printed as an A5 booklet (English version available online in
Supporting Information). We adapted questions from pre-
vious human dimension studies (e.g., Kaczensky et al. 2004,
Bath et al. 2008, Majićand Bath 2010, Glikman et al. 2012,
Slagle et al. 2012). The rst 20 questions measured aective
and cognitive components of attitudes toward wolves, fear
of wolves, and intent to support or oppose wolf conservation
(Table 1). The next 8 items measured attitudes toward
specic management options. Respondents answered each
question on a 5point scale. We coded answers to the 20
wolf attitude items so that 1 =very negative attitude (or very
high fear), and 5 =very positive attitude (or very low fear).
Responses to the management options were coded as
1=strongly disagree, and 5 =strongly agree. The middle
options of the response scale were labeled no opinion,
neutral,and in 2 cases I am indierent to it.
Five questions measured respondentsknowledge of wolf
biology and ecology. These questions were mostly multiple
choice, with 24 answer choices and a not sureoption to
Figure 1. Locations of the 6 study areas in Poland in which we measured
local attitudes toward wolves in March 2016 to March 2017: 1 =
Augustów, 2 =Białowieża, 3 =Bieszczady, 4 =Świętokrzyskie, 5 =Bory
Dolnośląskie, and 6 =Drawsko. Grey shaded areas indicate forests
occupied by wolves in 20122015 (R. Gula and K. Bojarska et al.,
unpublished data).
Gosling et al. Attitudes Toward Wolves 3
eliminate guessing. Answers were coded as dichotomous
variables, using 1 for the correct answer and 0 for incorrect,
not sure, and missing answers. We summed correct answers
to compute a knowledge score. Five questions (with di-
chotomous yesno responses)measured respondentsexpe-
rience with wolves: whether they had ever observed traces of
wolves in the wild, observed a wolf in captivity or in the
wild, observed livestock or pets attacked by a wolf, or per-
sonally killed a wolf. Responses were coded as 1 if the re-
spondent had experienced a particular situation and 0 if they
had not; we then summed answers to produce an experience
Next, we included 10 items based on Teel et al. (2010)to
measure domination and mutualism wildlife value ori-
entations, with a 5point response scale from strongly dis-
agree (coded as 1)to strongly agree (coded as 5): the middle
option was labeled neutral.The last part of the ques-
tionnaire asked respondents about their gender, age, edu-
cation level, and whether they are a hunter, forester, or own
Data Analysis
We carried out all analyses using SPSS (IBM SPSS Sta-
tistics for Macintosh Version 24.0, released 2016; IBM
Corp., Armonk, NY, USA)and Microsoft Excel (Microsoft
Excel for Mac 2011, Version 14.6.9; Microsoft Corp.,
Redmond, WA, USA)and excluded cases with missing data
listwise from analyses. All statistical tests were 2sided,
with α=0.05. We used ttests and 2way analysis of var-
iance (ANOVA)with simple eects analysis to compare
groups, using Cohensdand η
to measure eect size
(Vaske 2008).
We used exploratory factor analysis with an oblique ro-
tation (direct oblimin)to examine the structure of the 20
wolf attitude items. We extracted factors with eigenvalues
>1 and used loadings >0.40 to identify items belonging to
each factor (Field 2013).
We tted a linear regression model to predict each of
the 3 wolf attitude subscales identied through the factor
analysis and included 11 potential explanatory variables in
each model. Explanatory variables comprised 5 integer
continuous variables: knowledge and experience scores
(ranging from 0 to 5), mutualism and hunting beliefs scores
(ranging from 1 to 5)and age (in years); and 6 dummy
variables: wolf history of region (1=respondent lives in a
region with a long history of wolf presence), gender
(1=female), hunter (1=respondent is a hunter), livestock
(1=respondent owns livestock), forester (1=respondent is
a forester), and education (1=respondent has a tertiary
education). Models only included the main eects of each
explanatory variable. For each regression model, all Variance
Ination Factors were <2 and the largest correlation be-
tween independent variables was r=0.48; therefore, mul-
ticollinearity was not a concern.
Finally, we used the second generation of the Potential
for Conict Index (PCI
)and associated graphing tech-
nique to analyze and compare respondentssupport for
the 8 wolf management options (Vaske et al. 2010).This
approach is increasingly used in human dimensions re-
search to communicate the support for dierent wildlife
Table 1. Summary of exploratory factor analysis (using a direct oblimin rotation)for the 20 wolf attitude items in the questionnaire. Data were collected
from foresters and rural residents in 6 regions of Poland between March 2016 and March 2017 (n=548). Dashes represent factor loadings <0.40.
Rotated factor loadings
Item Aect and benets
Costs and
conservation support Fear of wolves
Attitude toward wolves in Poland 0.78 ––
It is important to have wolves in Poland for future generations 0.74 ––
Wolves are an important and natural part of forest ecosystems 0.73 ––
Attitude toward wolves in the region 0.72 ––
Attitude toward wolves in general 0.68 ––
Having wolves in Poland helps preserve the wolf as a wildlife species 0.66 ––
There is no need to have wolves in Poland because they already exist in other parts
of Europe 0.57 ––
Wolves restore the environment to a more natural state 0.51 ––
If I were hunting and I saw a wolf I would shoot it ––
The presence of wolves in the forest attract tourists ––
Wolves cause farmers to lose money 0.75
Wolves cause too much damage to livestock 0.74
Wolves limit ungulate populations 0.64
There are too many wolves in Poland 0.57
I would sign a petition to support wolf conservation 0.40
I would support an increase in wolf numbers in Poland 0.50
I would sign a petition to oppose wolf conservation 0.48
Wolves have a negative impact on hunting opportunities in Poland ––
I would be afraid to walk in a forest where wolves are present ––0.65
In areas where wolves live close to people, wolves are dangerous to humans ––0.61
Eigenvalues 8.36 1.66 1.40
% Variance 41.81 8.28 7.00
α0.89 0.83 0.74
These items loaded highly on the same factor and were excluded from the analysis.
4 Wildlife Society Bulletin
management options among dierent interest groups (e.g.,
2015).Themaximumpotentialforconict (PCI
suggests an issue is highly controversial and occurs when
responses to a particular management action are split
equally between the 2 extremes of the response scale (e.g.,
50% strongly agree and 50% strongly disagree).The
minimum potential for conict (PCI
=0)occurs when all
dicating a high level of consensus on an issue (Vaske 2008;
see also Vaske et al. 2010 for a detailed description of how
the index is computed).WecalculatedPCI
values using
the software available at
~jerryv/PCI2/index.htm (Accessed 17 Apr 2017).
The sampling method resulted in 617 completed ques-
tionnaires, comprising 292 rural residents (59% female,
average age 43.6 yr)and 325 foresters (16% female, average
age 45.5 yr). Greater than a third (35%)of the sampled
foresters were hunters, compared with just 3% of rural res-
idents. Fiftytwo percent of foresters had a university edu-
cation compared with 36% of residents, while the rate of
livestock ownership was similar between the 2 groups (29%
for residents and 32% for foresters).
Attitude Subscales Derived from Factor Analysis
The factor analysis produced 3 factors that together ex-
plained 57% of the variance (Table 1). Items that cluster on
each factor suggest that Factor 1 represented aection for
wolves and beliefs about their benets. Factor 2 represented
beliefs about the negative eects of wolves and support for
wolf conservation. Factor 3 represented fear of wolves.
Three items—‘If I were hunting and I saw a wolf I would
shoot it,’‘The presence of wolves in the forest attracts
tourists,and Wolves have a negative impact on hunting
opportunities in Poland’—did not load highly on any factor.
A fourth item—‘I would sign a petition to support wolf
conservation’—loaded highly on Factors 1 and 2. These 4
items were excluded from further analysis.
We treated the extracted factors as 3 wolf attitude sub-
scales, which we labeled Aect and benets,’‘Costs and
conservation support,and Fear of wolves.These subscales
showed acceptable reliability: Cronbachs alpha (α)ranged
from 0.74 to 0.89. We computed a respondents mean score
for each attitude subscale by averaging their responses to the
items belonging to that subscale.
The 5 items measuring mutualism values also showed
acceptable reliability (α=0.76), but the reliability of the 5
domination items was poor (α=0.60). Deleting 3 domi-
nation items resulted in a 2item scale with adequate reli-
ability (α=0.68). The 2 remaining items—‘Hunting is cruel
and inhumane to the animals(which was reverse coded)
and People who want to hunt should be provided with the
opportunity to do so’—reect beliefs about hunting, which
is one dimension of a domination value orientation (Teel
et al. 2010). We computed a mutualismscore for each
respondent by averaging their responses to the 5 mutualism
items and a hunting beliefsscore based on the mean re-
sponse to the 2 huntingrelated items.
Attitudes Toward Wolves
On average, respondents expressed neutral to positive atti-
tudes toward wolves. The mean score (3.6)for the Aect
and benetssubscale suggests that most respondents liked
wolves, valued them as a species, and believed that they have
positive eects on ecosystems. The mean score (3.0)for the
Costs and conservation supportsubscale suggests that, on
average, respondents were undecided about the potential
costs of wolves and neither supported nor opposed wolf
conservation. Finally, the mean score (3.2)for the Fear of
wolvessubscale suggests that, on average, respondents were
not afraid of wolves.
For the Aect and benetsattitude scores, the ANOVA
did not produce main eects of interest group (forester vs.
rural resident)or wolf history (long vs. short). Main eects,
however, were observed for Costs and conservation support
and Fear of wolves,representing minimal to typical eect
sizes (Table 2). For both Aect and benetsand Costs and
conservation supportthere was an interaction (albeit min-
imal in eect size)between group and wolf history
(P<0.01). This indicates that the eect of historical wolf
presence on local attitudes was dierent for rural residents
than it was for foresters. Simple eects analysis shows that
residents from regions with a long history of wolf presence
(east of the Vistula River)held less positive attitudes than
did residents from regions where wolves have recovered
more recently (west of the Vistula River)for both Aect
and benets(F
=11.10, P=0.001, d=0.39)and
Costs and conservation support(F
=24.50, P<0.001,
d=0.60), representing minimal to typical eect sizes. In
contrast, foresters from each side of the Vistula River did
not dier in any of the wolf attitude subscales.
When comparing foresters and residents in regions with
a similar history of wolf presence (i.e., from regions either
east or west of the Vistula River), foresters expressed
more negative attitudes for Cost and conservation support
Table 2. Results from a 2way analysis of variance for group (rural resi-
dent, forester)and wolf history (short, long)for the 3 wolf attitude sub-
scales: Aect and benets(n=609),Costs and conservation support
(n=613), and Fear of wolves(n=603). Data were collected from for-
esters and rural residents in 6 regions of Poland between March 2016 and
March 2017.
Attitude df
square FPη
Aect and benets
Group 1 0.00 0.01 0.941 0.00
Wolf history 1 0.66 1.27 0.261 0.00
Group ×Wolf history 1 7.19 13.84 <0.001 0.02
Costs and conservation support
Group 1 24.86 40.42 <0.001 0.06
Wolf history 1 12.47 20.27 <0.001 0.03
Group ×Wolf history 1 4.51 7.32 0.007 0.01
Fear of wolves
Group 1 33.29 28.59 <0.001 0.05
Wolf history 1 7.90 6.79 0.009 0.01
Group ×Wolf history 1 0.00 0.00 0.958 0.00
Gosling et al. Attitudes Toward Wolves 5
than did rural residents (west: F
=40.69, P<0.001,
d=0.71; east: F
=6.73, P=0.010, d=0.31), again
representing minimal to typical eect sizes. For Aect and
benets,a crossover eect was evident: west of the Vistula
River foresters expressed more negative attitudes than did
rural residents (F
=7.13, P=0.008, d=0.28), but east
of the Vistula the reverse was true (F
=6.70, P=0.010,
d=0.33), representing minimal eect sizes. There were
no interaction eects for Fear of wolves.Here the main
eects indicated that foresters expressed lower levels of fear,
mean score 3.4 ±1.1 (SD), than did rural residents
(2.9 ±1.1), while respondents west of the Vistula River
were less fearful (3.3 ±1.1)than were respondents from the
east (3.1 ±1.1).
The 3 regression models predicting wolf attitudes ex-
plained 1735% of variation in the subscale scores (Table 3).
Aect and benetswas positively inuenced by knowledge,
mutualism values, and education level, and negatively in-
uenced by age, being a hunter and owning livestock. Costs
and conservation supportwas also positively inuenced by
knowledge and mutualism values and negatively inuenced
by hunting beliefs, a long history of wolf presence in a re-
gion, age, and being a hunter or forester. Finally, knowledge
and experience tended to increase scores for Fear of wolves
(i.e., were associated with lower levels of fear), while a long
history of wolf presence was associated with greater levels
of fear.
Attitudes Toward Wolf Management
Only 32% of respondents agreed that wolves should be
completely protected, 47% disagreed, and 21% had no
opinion. Greater than half (55%)of respondents would
support seasonal wolf hunting, and 50% agreed that wolf
hunting should be restricted to specic areas. Support for
unrestricted hunting, however, was very limitedonly 11%
of respondents believed that wolves should be hunted all
year round.
West of the Vistula River, where wolf recovery is a more
recent phenomenon, foresters disagreed, on average, that
wolves should be completely protected; however, rural res-
idents tended to agree, the dierence between groups
representing a typical to substantial eect size (Table 4;
Fig. 2a). Similarly, foresters, on average, agreed that wolf
hunting should be allowed in restricted seasons and re-
stricted areas, whereas rural residents tended to oppose
these management options (typical eect size). On average,
foresters and rural residents both opposed yearround wolf
hunting; relatively low PCI
values for this management
action (0.16 and 0.10 for foresters and rural residents, re-
spectively)suggest a high degree of consensus within each
Table 3. Regression model of possible predictors for 3 measures of attitudes toward wolves: Aect and benets(n=574),Costs and conservation
support(n=576), and Fear of wolves(n=567), where b=unstandardized coecients and β=standardized coecients. Data were collected from
foresters and rural residents in 6 regions of Poland between March 2016 and March 2017.
Aect and benets Costs and conservation support Fear of wolves
Adjusted R
0.27 0.35 0.17
F20.08 29.00 12.10
P0.001 0.001 0.001
Possible predictors bβbβbβ
Knowledge 0.17 0.30* 0.13 0.19* 0.27 0.30*
Experience 0.03 0.04 0.02 0.04 0.16 0.18*
Mutualism 0.31 0.36* 0.28 0.26* 0.05 0.03
Hunting beliefs 0.04 0.06 0.18 0.22* 0.06 0.05
Wolf history of region 0.00 0.00 0.19 0.11* 0.27 0.12*
Gender 0.01 0.01 0.03 0.02 0.08 0.04
Age 0.01 0.10* 0.01 0.09* 0.00 0.00
Education (degree)0.16 0.11* 0.07 0.04 0.14 0.06
Hunter 0.19 0.10* 0.34 0.17* 0.11 0.04
Livestock 0.15 0.10* 0.09 0.05 0.16 0.07
Forester 0.12 0.00 0.16 0.01* 0.16 0.07
Table 4. Comparisons of attitudes between rural residents (n=141142)and foresters (n=161162)west of the Vistula River for the 8 wolf management
options. Data were collected from 3 regions of Poland between March 2016 and March 2017.
Management option Residents Foresters tdf Pd
Complete protection 3.47 2.70 5.88 301 <0.001 0.68
Hunting in restricted season 2.88 3.51 4.77 302 <0.001 0.55
Year round hunting 2.06 2.18 1.10 301 0.272 0.13
Hunting in restricted areas 2.81 3.27 3.43 301 0.001 0.39
Killing a wolf that killed livestock 3.35 3.50 1.22 301 0.225 0.14
Compensate farmers for livestock losses 3.88 4.19 3.25 301 0.001 0.37
Only compensate farmers if they use methods to prevent losses 3.37 3.07 2.35 301 0.019 0.27
Subsidies for farmers in wolf areas 3.10 3.43 2.87 302 0.004 0.33
6 Wildlife Society Bulletin
group. Both foresters and rural residents also agreed, on
average, with killing a wolf that had killed livestock.
East of the Vistula River, foresters expressed similar views
to their counterparts in the west (Fig. 2b); they tended to
oppose strict protection of wolves and agree with hunting in
specic seasons and areas. Interestingly, east of the Vistula
rural residents also, on average, opposed strict protection
and agreed with seasonal hunting, with neutral attitudes
toward allowing wolf hunting in specic areas. Both groups
also supported, on average, killing a wolf that had killed
livestock: relatively low PCI
values (0.14 and 0.16 for
foresters and rural residents, respectively)and a lack of a
dierence in the views of each group suggest united support
for lethal control of problem wolves (Table 5).
When asked about compensation, both foresters and rural
residents from west and east of the Vistula River agreed, on
average, that farmers should be compensated for losses
caused by wolves; low PCI
values for this item indicate a
high level of consensus within each group (Fig. 2ab).In
comparison, proposals to limit compensation to farms that
use methods to minimize predation or to provide subsidies
to farms within wolf areas were met with more neutral
Our study provides evidence that despite increasing wolf
abundance and substantial livestock depredation in the
eastern study areas, neutral to positive attitudes toward
wolves have persisted in rural areas of Poland. Scores for the
Aect and benetssubscale suggest that foresters and rural
residents on both sides of the Vistula River tend to like
wolves as a species and value their role in ecosystems,
matching previous research that reported positive attitudes
toward wolves among foresters and residents in Poland
(Balčiauskas et al. 2007, Olszańska 2012). However, results
uncovered dierences in the attitudes of foresters and rural
residents, and between residents from regions with dierent
histories of wolf presence. Furthermore, it appears that
positive attitudes toward wolves as a species do not neces-
sarily correspond with support for the current ban on wolf
Figure 2. Potential for Conict Index (PCI
; Vaske et al. 2010)for attitudes toward wolf management options for foresters (dark green)and rural residents
(light green)in Poland a)in 3 regions west, and b)in 3 regions east of the Vistula River. Asterisks indicate management options for which the opinions of
foresters and rural residents diered (Tables 4 and 5). Sample size varied by group and question: for rural residents west n=141142, for rural residents east
n=147149, for foresters west n=161162, and for foresters east n=160162. Data were collected between March 2016 and March 2017.
Gosling et al. Attitudes Toward Wolves 7
Rural residents from the 3 regions with an uninterrupted
history of wolf presence expressed less positive attitudes and
lower support for wolf conservation than did residents from
the 3 regions where wolves have recovered more recently.
This nding, which represents a medium eect size, does
not t the hypothesis that a long history of coexistence will
lead to greater acceptance of wolves among local inhabitants
(Williams et al. 2002, Fritts et al. 2003). Instead, results
align with studies from Europe and the United States that
found local attitudes tend to become more negative the
longer wolves have been abundant in a region, which is
usually attributed to residentsgreater exposure to wolf
related conicts (Treves et al. 2013, Dressel et al. 2014).
In the current study, the substantial rates of livestock
depredation in the 3 eastern study areas are likely to be an
important factor shaping local residentsattitudes toward
wolves. Any acceptance generated from an uninterrupted
history of wolf presence may be negated by residentsgreater
exposure to negative information about wolf attacks on
domestic animals (Ericsson and Heberlein 2003, Karlsson
and Sjöström 2007). However, given that in our study all
regions with a long history of wolf presence also suer
substantial rates of depredation, we are not able to isolate
the individual eects of direct wolflivestock conicts and
more indirect cultural factors (e.g., acceptance of carnivores
born of a long history of coexistence). It seems likely that
exposure to livestock depredation is a major driver of local
residentsmore negative attitudes in the eastern study areas,
given the high livestock losses in each region. We cannot
directly demonstrate this link through our analysis, however,
because experience score was not a signicant negative
predictor of attitudes in the regression models. This sug-
gests that the more negative attitudes in the eastern study
areas are more likely the result of secondhand knowledge of
local humanwolf conicts, for example from talking to
neighbors about wolf attacks on livestock, than the result of
personal experiences. This aligns with a Swedish study that
found indirect experiences drive negative attitudes of resi-
dents living in or near wolf territories (Karlsson and
Sjöström 2007).
According to Chapron et al. (2014), animal husbandry
practices that reduce depredation (such as livestock
guarding dogs and electric fences)are a prerequisite for the
coexistence of people and carnivores in regions with an
uninterrupted history of wolf presence. In 2 of the eastern
study regions (Augustów and Białowieża), livestock pro-
tection measures are not widely implemented and cattle are
often left unattended on pastures overnight. Therefore,
programs to improve animal husbandry on vulnerable farms
in these regions (e.g., through electric fencing or the use of
night corrals), as well as wild ungulate harvesting regimes
that ensure a stable density of natural prey for wolves, could
be important strategies to reduce wolflivestock conicts
and help build local acceptance for the carnivore (Gula
2008c, Chapron et al. 2014). However, in the third eastern
study area (Bieszczady)electric fencing, shepherds, and
guarding dogs are routinely used to protect sheep on pas-
tures, but predation rates remain high. It is clear that
minimizing livestock depredation is essential to foster local
acceptance of large carnivores in rural areas (Chapron et al.
2014), but the situation in Bieszczady suggests a caveat that
the adoption of farming practices that aim to reduce dep-
redation does not alone guarantee positive attitudes toward
the predators.
Unlike rural residents, forestersattitudes toward wolves
did not vary across regions with dierent histories of wolf
presence, aligning with previous research (Olszańska 2012).
The consistency of forestersattitudes may partly reect that
foresters are employees of the same government agency and
their views toward wildlife are likely to be inuenced by the
professional culture of that agency (Kaltenborn et al. 1999).
This may be particularly pertinent for Polish forestry, which
has a strong cultural identity (Lawrence 2009). Other
studies have also reported a strong eect of profession on
attitudes toward wolves (Kaltenborn et al. 1999, Naughton
Treves et al. 2003). However, it should be noted that be-
cause the occupation of rural residents is unknown, our
results do not provide any insights into the inuence of
profession on attitudes beyond that of being a forester.
On both sides of the Vistula River, foresters tended to be
more critical of the costs of wolves and less supportive of
wolf conservation than were rural residents (representing a
moderate eect size). By the nature of their occupation,
foresters in this study frequently work in forests inhabited
by wolves and are therefore likely to be more aware of the
presence and impacts of the predator (e.g., by encountering
remains of prey in the forest). This familiarity may heighten
concerns about the abundance and costs of wolves and
Table 5. Comparisons of attitudes between rural residents (n=147149)and foresters (n=160162)east of the Vistula River for the 8 wolf management
options. Data were collected from 3 regions of Poland between March 2016 and March 2017.
Management option Residents Foresters tdf Pd
Complete protection 2.82 2.43 3.15 308 0.002 0.36
Hunting in restricted season 3.19 3.63 3.61 307 <0.001 0.41
Year round hunting 2.49 2.29 1.69 306 0.092 0.19
Hunting in restricted areas 3.05 3.53 3.96 308 <0.001 0.45
Killing a wolf that killed livestock 3.59 3.83 2.31 306 0.022 0.26
Compensate farmers for livestock losses 3.97 4.18 2.22 308 0.027 0.25
Only compensate farmers if they use methods
to prevent losses 3.03 2.88 1.11 306 0.266 0.13
Subsidies for farmers in wolf areas 3.31 3.04 2.10 309 0.036 0.24
8 Wildlife Society Bulletin
temper support for strict protection. Nonetheless, foresters
could also be expected to view wolves favorably because of
the carnivores potential to reduce browsing damage in
forests by reducing red deer (Cervus elaphus)and roe deer
(Capreolus capreolus)numbers. The strong ties between
hunting and forestry in Poland may be an important factor
inuencing forestersattitudes. For example, the Polish
Hunting Association mostly hunts in forests managed by
the State Forests Holding, with a formal agreement be-
tween the 2 organizations to collaborate closely on wildlife
management (State Forests National Forest Holding [State
Forests] and Polish Hunting Association [PHA] 2016).
Greater than a third of the sampled foresters were also
hunters, making them more likely to have an interest in
hunting wolves as a trophy species, but also to be concerned
about the eect of a growing wolf population on hunting
opportunities for wild ungulates in Poland (although the
item related to hunting eects was not included in the
analysis). Hunters in Poland claim they already incur eco-
nomic losses from reduced hunting sales in areas where
wolves are present (Okarma et al. 2011). Our regression
model conrmed that being a hunter is associated with
more negative attitudes toward the carnivore.
Consistent with Olszańska (2012), we found low support
for the ban on wolf hunting in Poland. Results indicate that
>20 years after wolves were declared a protected species,
more than half of respondents would support seasonal wolf
hunting. Again, there appears to be important dierences in
the attitudes of foresters and rural residents, and between
residents from either side of the Vistula River. Support for
hunting was strongest among foresters, whose attitudes
appear to have remained stable over time; in 2006, ap-
proximately 60% of foresters agreed with seasonal hunting
(Olszańska 2012), compared with 65% in the current study.
Given that foresters tended to be critical of wolveseects
on livestock and game, their opposition to strict protection
may reect a desire to curb the negative eects of the car-
nivore by regulating wolf numbers through hunting.
Rural residents were less supportive of strict protection
and more supportive of hunting in regions with continuous
wolf presence, compared with residents from regions where
wolves have recently recovered. This could indicate that
rural residents may become less accepting of wolf protection
the longer wolves have been abundant in a region, matching
other European studies that report a decline in positive at-
titudes over time (Dressel et al. 2014). However, it is also
possible that opposition to wolf protection (and more neg-
ative attitudes)have simply persisted in areas where wolves
have been continuously present, but been forgottenin re-
gions where wolves were rare or absent for a long period. In
each case, we would argue that livestock depredation is
likely to be an important driver of attitudes. Frequent live-
stock depredation east of the Vistula River may promote (or
maintain)more negative attitudes toward wolves, whereas
the absence of livestock depredation in the western study
areas may have allowed more positive attitudes to persist (or
negative attitudes to fade over time). As large carnivore
recovery continues across Europe, livestock depredation and
humanwolf conicts are only likely to intensify (Mech
2016), posing a key challenge for maintaining local support
for wolf protection in rural areas.
Dierences in attitudes, however, could also reect dif-
ferent cultural and socioeconomic factors in regions with
long and short histories of wolf presence. For example,
population density was lower in the 3 eastern areas, and
rural areas in eastern Poland also tend to be poorer and less
industrialized than rural areas in the west (Rosner and
Stanny 2017). It is conceivable that people living in these
more remote and sparsely populated regions may feel more
marginalized than those living in the more densely popu-
lated and industrialized west. This attitude may heighten
the perceived urbanrural divide in these communities, fu-
eling feelings of political alienation, which could manifest in
collective resistance to wolf conservation and subsequently
in more negative attitudes among residents (Eriksson 2016).
Although we focused on comparing attitudes across re-
gions and interest groups, results from the regression anal-
ysis suggest that respondentsattitudes toward wolves were
partly inuenced by their knowledge of the species and their
underlying values toward wildlife (i.e., mutualism values).
This corroborates previous studies that found a positive
relationship between knowledge and support for wolves
(Ericsson and Heberlein 2003, Glikman et al. 2012), and an
inverse relationship between knowledge and fear (Majić
Skrbinšek et al. 2015), and which have linked wildlife value
orientations with attitudes toward large carnivores (e.g.,
Zinn and Pierce 2002, Hermann and Menzel 2013,
Hermann et al. 2013). These ndings support the use of
regionally targeted awareness campaigns to help improve
attitudes toward wolves in rural areas (Bath 2013). Such
campaigns could focus on factual information about wolf
biology and habitat, and aim to address misconceptions
about wolfhuman conicts that may contribute to negative
attitudes. For example, educational messages should em-
phasize that wolf attacks on humans are extremely rare
(Linnell et al. 2002), and that if wolves exist near livestock
in areas where wild ungulates are abundant, wolves still
selectively predate on wild prey (Meriggi and Lovari 1996,
Gula 2008b). Perceived competition between hunters and
wolves for wild ungulates could be addressed by commu-
nicating that in humandominated landscapes, large carni-
vores only have a very limited eect on the density of their
prey (Kuijper et al. 2016). These factbased messages
could also be complemented by messages that appeal to
peoples values (such as messages that focus on the rights of
wolves to exist)to further help to foster support for wolf
A key limitation of our study relates to dierences between
regions with long and short histories of wolf presence. This
creates a confounding eect, where it is not possible to
isolate the inuences of livestock depredation, socio
economic factors and historical wolf presence on local atti-
tudes toward wolves. Therefore we cannot judge whether
residents in the study regions with a short history of wolf
Gosling et al. Attitudes Toward Wolves 9
presence expressed more positive attitudes because a)they
have had less time to develop negative opinions, b)they
have been exposed to fewer wolflivestock conicts, or c)
they feel less marginalized. Unfortunately, the geographic
history of wolf presence in Poland makes it dicult to avoid
such confounding eects in the study design. In times of
persecution, wolves persisted in more remote (and less
densely populated)areas of easternmost Poland (Okarma
1993). The prevalence of outdoor cattle and sheep grazing
in these regions leads to a greater risk of wolflivestock
conicts (Jędrzejewski et al. 2008). Here it should be noted
that the greater predation rates at the eastern study areas are
not the result of greater livestock density (which was gen-
erally greater west of the Vistula River), but can instead be
ascribed to greater overlap between wolf territories and
grazing land (Gula 2008b). Nevertheless, including other
regions in Poland where wolves are not present (or present
in very low numbers)in the survey design would help future
studies to tease out the separate eects of wolf presence and
livestock depredation on local attitudes toward wolves.
Another weakness of our study is the possible bias asso-
ciated with our sampling of rural residents. While a lack of a
reliable sampling frame prevented us from conducting true
probability sampling, we made special eort to reach a wide
range of people and make the selection process as random as
possible (e.g., by distributing questionnaires via individuals
not associated with wolf research and at community meet-
ings and local businesses), to minimize bias and achieve a
representative sample. To help assess the representativeness
of the rural resident sample, we used census data to compare
the gender and age prole of respondents with that of the
population in the communes where the survey was carried
out: results (not shown)suggest that elderly residents were
underrepresented in the sample. This could contribute to
more positive attitudes because attitudes toward wolves are
often found (also in our study)to correlate negatively with
age (Zimmermann et al. 2001, Dressel et al. 2014, Majić
Skrbinšek et al. 2015). While the skewed sex ratio of
the forester sample reects that forestry is still a male
dominated profession in Poland (Bath et al. 2008), the ratio
of females in our rural resident sample (59%)is greater than
that of the population (47%). This may contribute to less
positive attitudes, given that many studies have found that
women tend to be more negative than men are toward large
carnivores (e.g., Bath et al. 2008, Olszańska 2012, Dressel
et al. 2014). Although the neutral to positive attitudes re-
vealed in our study are consistent with other Polish studies
(Balčiauskas et al. 2007, Olszańska 2012), given the non-
probability sampling method, care is needed in generalizing
our results to the wider population of rural residents living
in wolf areas in Poland. Future studies could consider al-
ternative sampling frames to target rural residents (e.g.,
randomly selecting houses identied from aerial photo-
graphs); or, if this is not feasible, use quota sampling based
on age classes and gender.
Finally, it should be noted that in this study, age and time
lived in a wolf area may aect the validity of our measure of
direct experience of wolves. We did not measure time lived
in a wolf area, but there was a minimal (r=0.14)but rel-
evant (P<0.001)correlation between age and experience
Our study provides evidence that residentsattitudes are
less positive in regions where wolves have been abundant
for a longer period and that suer high rates of wolf
depredation on livestock. Results reinforce the importance
of curbing wolflivestock conicts (e.g., through im-
proving animal husbandry practices on vulnerable farms)to
increase local acceptance of the carnivore. Our results are
relevant to other regions experiencing wolf recovery, and
point to the need for a proactive approach to counteract a
potential shift toward more negative attitudes and reduced
Relationships between knowledge, mutualism values, and
attitudes suggests that targeted educational campaigns in-
volving both factand valuebased messages could be
an eective means of fostering and maintaining support
for wolf conservation, in areas with both long and short
This study was funded by the Polish National Science
Centre (grants NCN2011/01/B/NZ8/04233, NCN2012/
05/N/NZ8/00860), SAVE Wildlife Conservation Fund,
and Technical University of Munich. M. Hardej helped
translate the questionnaire. A. Adamowicz, K. Kochano-
wicz, M. Kwiatkowska, A. Milanowski, D. Myczkowski,
T. Pietrzykowski, B. Pirga, J. Harmuszkiewicz, and A.
LaskowskaGinszt distributed the questionnaires among
foresters and rural residents in the study area. We also thank
all of the forestry districts that participated in the survey:
Baligród, Cisna, Człopa, Krzyż, Mirosławiec, Pieńsk,
Ruszów, Skarżysko, Stąporków, Suchedniów, Tuczno,
Wałcz, and Wymiarki. Finally, we would like to thank the
Associate Editor and 2 anonymous reviewers for their in-
sightful and constructive feedback on our manuscript.
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12 Wildlife Society Bulletin
... Large carnivores are the most conflictual species that might exert a negative impact on human activities [18,19]. The existing conflict of interest between carnivore conservation and extensive grazing practices elicits strong emotional responses that may undermine both carnivore survival and the long-term maintenance of traditional husbandry practices [19][20][21][22][23][24]. Apex predators exert a key role in the maintenance of ecological balance as a consequence of trophic cascade effects [25,26]. ...
... Contrarywise, the neutral attitude showed the smallest grey bar as the lesser mentioned by the stakeholders (urban inhabitants = 1, rural inhabitants = 6, hunters = 1, general public = 5, conservationists = 3). Reference list: [22,23,[34][35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42]46,47,. ...
... Of particular interest are the results obtained in terms of attitude comparisons between periods as far as conservationists are concerned. Contrary to the first period in which only positive attitudes were reported, during the second one, one negative [67] and two neutral attitudes [22,59] were registered. Niedziałkowski and Putkowska-Smoter (2020) [67] stated that some foresters benefitted from organising wolf hunts for Polish and international hunters, while others believe in and recognize the ecological value of wolves within the ecosystem (i.e., through limiting ungulate densities, they indirectly have a positive impact on forest plantations). ...
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Conflicts between large carnivores and human activities undermine both the maintenance of livestock practices as well as the conservation of carnivores across Europe. Because large carnivore management is driven by a common EU policy, the purpose of this research was to assess stakeholders’ perception towards bears and wolves at an EU level. We conducted a systematic search and subsequent analysis of 40 peer-reviewed studies collected from 1990 to September 2020 within Member States of the EU. Rural inhabitants and hunters exhibited the most negative attitude compared to urban inhabitants and conservationists, whose attitude was more positive. We showed that direct experience with predators as a consequence of ongoing re-colonization may have affected the degree of acceptance of certain categories and that the long-term coexistence between humans and carnivores does not necessarily imply increased tolerance. To encourage coexistence, we recommend monitoring changes in attitudes over time relative to carnivore population dynamics.
... Although attitudes toward wolves are generally positive in Europe, localized support for wolf protection has weakened, particularly in locations where wolf populations have grown and conservation projects have been implemented (Dressel et al., 2015). Although familiarity and historical coexistence can increase tolerance of wildlife, increased exposure can negatively influence tolerance and support for protection (Eriksson et al., 2015;Gosling et al., 2019;Karlsson & Sjöström, 2007). This might relate less to tangible material factors (e.g., economic costs of depredation), and more to intangible ones (e.g., affective-emotional responses) (Kansky & Knight, 2014). ...
... Overall, we found stakeholders were relatively tolerant of wolves in the region irrespective of their exposure. Historic wolf presence across the broader region might have moderated attitudes, supporting research that shows negative attitudes are more likely in locations where wolves are new arrivals rather than long-term inhabitants (Gosling et al., 2019;Karlsson & Sjöström, 2007). However, these studies also warn tolerance can decrease if wolf populations increase or spread. ...
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Human-wolf (Canis lupus) conservation conflicts in Europe have increased as wolf presence has expanded. Understanding how different stakeholders perceive coexistence, especially in locations identified as ecologically important for wolves is necessary to minimize conflict. We conducted a survey in an area of northwest Italy identified as a critical corridor linking separate, cross-boundary populations. The objective was to understand how stakeholder identities, social demographics, communication, and exposure influence the success of coexistence strategies. The study found conservationists and, significantly, hunters were most positive about wolves, while farmers were least tolerant, irrespective of exposure. Tolerance also correlated positively with higher levels of formal education and engagement with science-based knowledge. In contrast, less tolerant attitudes were influenced more by informal knowledge discourses and age. The article concludes that coexistence strategies need to be inclusive, reflexive and adapted to the specific circumstances of different stakeholder types.
... There are several possible motivations for the illegal killing of wolves. First, many of hunters have negative attitudes toward wolves both in Poland (Gosling et al., 2019) and in other countries (Ericsson and Heberlein, 2003;Dressel et al., 2015;Mykrä et al., 2017). Hunters perceive these carnivores as competitors, reducing the number of game species, mainly wild ungulates, thus limiting the financial benefits for the hunting industry. ...
... In our study, the relatively large share of pups among shot wolves (34%) may demonstrate the ruthlessness and determination to remove this carnivore from the hunting grounds, without any exceptions. The deliberate shooting may reflect the low levels of acceptance toward wolves by hunters, especially in western Poland, where the population is recovering (Gosling et al., 2019). Such low levels of acceptance was also reported from other areas where wolves were returning (Ericsson and Heberlein, 2003;Treves et al., 2013;Sonne et al., 2019;Sunde et al., 2021). ...
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In central Europe, wolves Canis lupus prey on wild ungulates - main game species and occasionally kill livestock. The recovery of wolf population across the continent coincides with an increasing incidence of illegal killing, which level remains unknown. We analysed the illegal killing of wolves in Poland, where the species is strictly protected since 1998. We opportunistically collected data on wolves illegally shot and snared from 2002 to 2020, revealing their geographical extent and sex and age structure. Furthermore, we estimated their mortality rate due to illegal shooting on the basis of 16 GPS/GSM collared individuals between 2014 and 2020. We recorded 54 illegally shot and 37 snared wolves. The majority (63.7%) were killed between 2017 and 2020, mostly in Western Poland. The sex structure was similar between shot and snared individuals. In both groups, the wolves over one-year old prevailed, although there were 18 pups among shot wolves. We identified 6 shot and 3 snared breeders. Out of 16 GPS/GSM collared individuals, six were shot giving the mortality rate of 0.33 per year. Simulations revealed that the pooled number of wolves illegally shot in Poland annually, is between 147 and 1134 (99% highest density interval) or 216 and 1000 (95%). In six out of seven cases, in which the person who shot a wolf was eventually sentenced, hunters were responsible. We conclude that the present regulations concerning the prevention of illegal killing, pursuing and punishing the perpetrators of the illegal killing of wolves, require urgent improvements in order to effectively mitigate the problem.
... Perceptions and attitudes towards wolves are influenced by knowledge of the species (Ericsson and Heberlein, 2003;Gosling et al., 2019). Tourism can therefore act as an educational platform to increase public awareness of, among other topics, the potential ecological value of wolves, the low risk of attacks on humans and effective measures to protect livestock as well as the importance of keeping safe distances and never feeding wildlife in order to avoid habituation. ...
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In many early European cultures, humans shared an overall positive view of the wolf. But this changed with the anthropocentric view of nature brought about by Christianity as well as with the process of domestication and the advent of extensive animal husbandry. Wolves were then strongly persecuted, leading to their extirpation in almost all their former range across the continent. In the last few decades, however, wolves have returned to many parts of Europe from which they had been absent for centuries. Their recovery impacts a range of human activities and interests and is accompanied by a variety of social conflicts and diverging points of view on how wolves should be managed.
... Even though the data cannot be generalized to students in other universities nor Japanese citizens, our results indicate how people perceive the reintroduction of once extirpated species, particularly smaller mammals or bird species. Contrary to previous studies that found people with more knowledge of the species (e.g., wolves) more likely to have supported the reintroduction of that species (Enck & Brown, 2002;Gosling et al., 2019), knowledge was not associated with attitude for reintroduction of oriental storks. For river otters, more knowledge reduced students' support toward reintroduction. ...
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While reintroducing extirpated species is an important approach for restoring self-regulating biodiverse ecosystems, previous studies have shown that public support and understanding are indispensable for the success of such projects. In this study, the attitudes of university students toward species that have already been reintroduced in Japan (oriental storks) and those that have not yet been reintroduced (river otters) were compared. A questionnaire survey was conducted in a private university in Japan, and the results (n = 360) revealed that the students more likely supported the reintroduction of oriental storks than that of river otters. A majority did not know the reasons accounting for the extirpation of these species, and a text mining analysis revealed that those who saw the news about reintroduction of oriental stork showed a higher likelihood to support the project. Thus, the participants’ attitudes toward species reintroduction were not necessarily affected by their knowledge regarding the concerned species, but by the transient experiences, such as watching news about the project.
... Our results showed that knowledge about wolves was particularly high among participants (Figure 2), likely reflecting not only the relatively high abundance and longer residence time of wolves but possibly also their perceived presence in people's minds, relative to bison and moose in this case (Arbieu et al., 2019;Randler et al., 2020;Treves et al., 2013). As a 'livestock killer' and competitor for game (Gosling et al., 2019;Mech, 2012), wolves have been in the spotlight of human history. This is underlined by numerous reports on wolf attacks that have accumulated for centuries in many parts of the world (Linnell et al., 2002). ...
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1. Successful conservation efforts have led to recent increases of large mammals such as European bison Bison bonasus, moose Alces alces and grey wolf Canis lupus and their return to former habitats in central Europe. While embraced by some, the recovery of these species is a controversial topic and holds potential for human-wildlife conflicts. Involving the public has been suggested to be an effective method for monitoring wildlife and mitigating associated conflicts. 2. To assess two interrelated prerequisites for engaging people in Citizen Science (CS)-knowledge of returning species and respondents' readiness to participate in CS activities for monitoring and managing these species-we conducted a survey (questionnaire) in two wildlife parks located in different states of Germany. Based on 472 complete questionnaires, we developed generalized linear models to understand how sociodemographic variables and exposure to the species affected visitors' knowledge of each species, and to investigate if sociodemo-graphic variables and knowledge influenced the likelihood of visitors to participate in CS activities. 3. Almost all visitors were aware of the returning wolf population, while knowledge and awareness about bison and moose were significantly lower. Knowledge of the two herbivores differed geographically (higher knowledge of moose in the northeastern state), possibly indicating a positive association between exposure to the species and knowledge. However, models generally performed poorly in predicting knowledge about wildlife, suggesting that such specific knowledge is insufficiently explained by sociodemographic variables. 4. Our model, which explained stated willingness in CS indicated that younger participants and those with higher knowledge scores in the survey were more willing to engage in CS activities.
... The recent expansion of wolves ignites discussions about possible consequences for the economy and implications for future wolf management strategies. Despite the generally positive attitudes toward wolves in the recently recolonized parts of the country, growing rates of wolf attacks on livestock will likely negatively influence the public acceptance of the carnivore (Gosling et al., 2019). So far, studies that addressed spatial and temporal patterns in livestock depredation by wolves in Poland were conducted exclusively in the Carpathian Mountains, which historically held the densest wolf populations in Poland and were the most affected by livestock depredation (Flis, 2014;Gula, 2008b;Nowak et al., 2005;Śmietana, 2012). ...
As the wolf Canis lupus populations continue to recover across Europe, livestock depredation becomes increasingly challenging for their effective conservation. We aim to (1) analyze the spatiotemporal variation in wolf attacks on livestock in relation to the landscape structure, livestock species, and the phase of wolf expansion in Poland and (2) discuss the implications for conservation and management in an expanding, protected wolf population. From 2008 to 2018, farmers reported 5499 attacks on livestock with 13,164 killed individuals, and the number of attacks increased 2.7-fold at the country scale. Sheep were among the most frequently killed livestock, and surplus killing (>2 killed individuals) was relatively common in captive deer and sheep depredation. The attacks were patchily distributed; 59% of all kills occurred in municipalities constituting 1% of the country surface. The probability and number of attacks were positively influenced by forest and pasture cover, and by the occurrence of depredation in previous years. Spatial variation and long-term dynamics in livestock depredation by wolves can be attributed to different husbandry practices and phases of wolf recovery in three regions of the country. Our results indicate that accelerating increase in depredation rates during the initial phases of wolf recovery is likely to be followed by stabilization or decrease in attacks. A detailed spatiotemporal analysis of wolf–livestock conflict can help in management decisions in areas with ongoing wolf population recovery.
... (Kellert, 1985;Williams et al., 2002) and Europe (Dressel et al., 2015;Kleiven et al., 2004). Given that other studies have identified that attitudes toward predators become more negative the longer people live in proximity to them (Dressel et al., 2015;Gosling, Bojarska, Gula, & Kuehn, 2019), and that we found that proximity to wolves was inversely related to positive attitudes, we might expect attitudes to become more negative as wolves continue to establish in Washington. Yet, recent studies have shown that attitudes toward wolves in the United States have become more favorable (George et al., 2016;Hamilton et al., 2020) and that public values are becoming more eco-centric and less anthropocentric with regard to conservation (George et al., 2016;. ...
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Abstract Controversial wildlife conservation and management, such as that involving gray wolves (Canis lupus), can be symbolic of broader social conflicts. We conducted an online survey (N = 420) to determine factors shaping public attitudes toward wolf management among residents of Washington state, United States. We used 12 Likert‐type statements to form a single latent construct that represented attitudes toward wolf management in a multi‐use landscape and fit a simple structural equation model to identify demographic predictor variables. The strongest predictors were that voters self‐identifying as Democrats were more likely to hold positive attitudes toward wolves and management to conserve them than those identifying with other political parties (standardized latent variable coefficient = 0.585) and women were more likely than men to hold negative attitudes (−0.459). Older respondents were also more likely to hold negative attitudes (−0.015) and respondents who tried to stay informed about wolf issues were more likely to hold positive attitudes (0.172). Perceived links between wildlife management issues and political ideology may exacerbate community disagreements, hindering coexistence between rural livelihoods and wolves. We recommend appropriate framing and messengers to account for this linkage and improve communication of policy and promote science‐based decision‐making.
... The literature on human-wildlife conflicts barely addresses this question. It is mainly concerned with understanding the diversity of the perceptions and attitudes underlying conflicts (e.g., Bruskotter et al. 2019; Gosling et al. 2019). When explicitly tackling disagreements, most researchers explore means to avoid rather than to resolve them (e.g., Fang et al. 2019;Muntifering et al. 2019), thereby paralleling the attitude of many practitioners (Arpin 2019). ...
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Conservation decisions are typically made in complex, dynamic, and uncertain settings, where multiple actors raise diverse and potentially conflicting claims, champion different and sometimes contradictory values, and enjoy varying degrees of freedom and power to act and influence collective decisions. Therefore, effective conservation actions require conservation scientists and practitioners to take into account the complexity of multiactor settings. We devised a framework to help conservation biologists and practitioners in this task. Institutional economic theories, which are insufficiently cited in the conservation literature, contain useful insights for conservation. Among these theories, the economies of worth can significantly contribute to conservation because it can be used to classify the types of values peoples or groups refer to when they interact during the elaboration and implementation of conservation projects. Refining this approach, we designed a framework to help conservation professionals grasp the relevant differences among settings in which decisions related to conservation actions are to be made, so that they can adapt their approaches to the features of the settings they encounter. This framework distinguishes 6 types of agreements and disagreements that can occur between actors involved in a conservation project (harmony, stricto sensu arrangement, deliberated arrangement, unilateral and reciprocal compromise, and locked‐in), depending on whether they disagree on values or on their applications and on whether they can converge toward common values by working together. We identified key questions that conservationists should answer to adapt their strategy to the disagreements they encounter and identified relevant participatory processes to complete the adaptation.
... The hypothesis that a long history of coexistence will lead to greater acceptance of wolves among local inhabitants (Williams et al. 2002) does not support our finding. This less positive attitude and lower support for wolf conservation in our study region with a long history of uninterrupted wolf presence represents the same pattern with other studies (Gosling et al. 2019), which is usually attributed to residents' greater exposure to wolf-related conflict (Dressel et al. 2015, Treves et al. 2013). ...
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Nowadays population growth and the exploitation of the natural environments lead to encroachment of human activities in wildlife habitats, which increases human-wildlife conflicts, especially with carnivores. The investment of livestock owners and natural conservationists for mitigating these inconsistencies is vital. There is more evidence of an increasing trend in the complaints reported by Kharvana herders on wolf damages. This study aimed to capture people attitudes about wolves and investigate the familiarity and feasibility of four nonlethal methods including attractant removal, guarding dogs, alarm and scare tactics, and moving livestock for reducing the wolf depredation on small livestock (goat and sheep) in the region of interest. To conduct this study, 15% of the herders in each village from Kharvana were selected for interviews. We analyzed survey responses from 77 Kharvana-based herdsmen. Surprisingly, the results of the study indicated that although the majority of survey respondents reported an insufficient current level of protection from wolves and had a high desire to eliminate and kill wolves, there was a notable number of responses that neither agreed nor disagreed with having experienced negative impacts from wolves. We found that there is a perceived feasibility of implementing all four strategies in areas where are used as wintering feeding sites compared to areas are allowed to be grazed during warm part of the year. The use of guarding dogs (median rank = 1) was the most and significantly locally-feasible livestock protection measure (Friedman X^2(3) = 118.6, P<0.0001) for inclusion in conflict reduction programs that have already been used in the Kharvana area by the most herdsmen.
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We investigated the number, distribution and human-caused mortality of wolves in western Poland during different management regimes. During intensive eradication (1951-1974) at least 49 wolves were exterminated (on average 2.6 wolves per year), and the species was reported in up to 4 forests per year (mean 1.7), but most of the family groups bred only once before being killed. Under hunting management (1975-1997) wolves were recorded in 1-4 forests per year (mean 3.1). Most of them did not breed or bred only once before they were harvested in the first year after detection. During this time period at least 70 individuals were harvested (on average 3.0 wolves per year). After the wolf became a protected species in 1998, the number of wolf groups increased to 30 in winter 2012/2013, while the number of forests inhabited by wolves increased to 14. Our study provides further confirmation that recreational hunting conducted in populations of wolves living far from a source of immigrants, in areas heavily altered by humans, where access by hunters to the most distant refuges is enabled by a dense network of forest roads, has a detrimental impact on wolf survival comparable to the effects of systematic eradication. We recommend that management plans for such subpopulations should be preceded by careful analysis of population viability and connectivity with source populations.
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Large carnivores are frequently presented as saviours of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning through their creation of trophic cascades, an idea largely based on studies coming primarily out of relatively natural landscapes. However, in large parts of the world, particularly in Europe, large carnivores live in and are returning to strongly human-modified ecosystems. At present, we lack a coherent framework to predict the effects of large carnivores in these anthropogenic landscapes. We review how human actions influence the ecological roles of large carnivores by affecting their density or behavior or those of mesopredators or prey species. We argue that the potential for density-mediated trophic cascades in anthropogenic landscapes is limited to unproductive areas where even low carnivore numbers may impact prey densities or to the limited parts of the landscape where carnivores are allowed to reach ecologically functional densities. The potential for behaviourally mediated trophic cascades may be larger and more widespread, because even low carnivore densities affect prey behaviour. We conclude that predator–prey interactions in anthropogenic landscapes will be highly context-dependent and human actions will often attenuate the ecological effects of large carnivores. We highlight the knowledge gaps and outline a new research avenue to study the role of carnivores in anthropogenic landscapes.
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Debates over wolf policy are driven by an underlying attitudinal divide between people from urban and rural areas. This study explores how the power relationship between urban and rural groups interact with individual attitude formation in relation to wolf policy, in order to understand why dissatisfaction with wolf policy tends to result in group level conflict patterns. Using Swedish survey data, I analyze attitudes to wolf policy, in relation to collective level effects and rural political alienation. Findings indicate that individual level attitudes towards the Swedish wolf policy are in part determined by collective attitude patterns: effects that could be contingent on political alienation. This highlights the possibility of reducing attitude polarization with respect to the wolf policy, by addressing political alienation among the rural population.
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There is a pressing need to integrate large carnivore species into multi-use landscapes outside protected areas. However, an unclear understanding of coexistence hinders the realization of this goal. We provide a comprehensive conceptualization of coexistence in which mutual adaptations by both large carnivores and humans play a central role.
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Around the Regional Nature Reserve NazzanoTevere-Farfa in Central Italy, wild boar ecological and economic impacts have increased over the last decade, creating the need for an integrated wildlife management approach. Since 2006, park authorities have used an average of 17 % of the yearly protected area budget for compensation and 5 % for preventive measures. Additionally, 14 wild boar/km2 were culled in 2009. While the management tools used in the protected area were effective in reducing the species’ impacts, they did not decrease human-wild boar controversies. To understand the reasons behind such conflicts, user opinions toward the wildlife management approaches used (i.e., preventive measures, compensation, capture, and removal) and planned (i.e., culls) in Nazzano-Tevere-Farfa were explored. Face-to-face interviews were carried out with the general public (n=288), hunters (n=57), and farmers (n=107) in 2009–2010. Differences in attitudes toward preventive measures (χ2(8)=40.35, p<.001), compensation (χ2(8) = 34.11,p<.001), capture and removal (χ2(8)=98.23, p<.001), and culls (χ2(8)=77.10, p<.001) were highlighted by Chi-square analysis. The Potential for Conflict Index showed that, overall, park users supported preventive measures and compensation, but not capture and removal and culls. Workshops organized with hunters and farmers in 2010 highlighted that park authorities had not considered user expectations when planning wild boar management. If decision makers want to address conflicts, they need to go beyond standard management by tailoring their practices to the specific social context in which they work. Effective management is not only about reducing impacts, it is also about listening to people living with wildlife.
Monitoring of the wolf Canis lupus is a demanding task as it lives in low densities, utilizes vast home ranges and disperses over large areas. These factors make obtaining accurate data about population parameters over the whole distribution area of the species impossible. Thus detailed local studies on socio-spatial organization are essential to calibrate information obtained over a larger area. We applied GPS/GSM telemetry, non-invasive genetic sampling, year-round tracking, camera trapping and howling stimulations to determine the number of family groups, population density and home-range sizes of wolves in the Drawa Forest (DF, western Poland, 2,500 km2), an area recently recolonized by the species. The number of wolves in DF increased from 14 individuals in 2013/2014 to 30 in 2016/2017. The annual rate of increase varied from 43% in 2014/2015 to 7% in the final year. Population density for the whole study area was relatively low (1.2 indiv./100 km2 in 2016/2017), but densities within territories of two packs studied with telemetry were 1.9 and 1.5 indiv./100 km2. Mean pack size varied between 3.5 and 5.6 individuals, with the largest pack comprising 8 wolves. Mean number of pups observed in summers (June-August) was 4.5. Home ranges of three collared male wolves ranged from 321.8 to 420.6 km2 (MCP 100%) and from 187.5 to 277.5 km2 (Kernel 95%), but core areas had a size of 30.5-84.7 km2 (MCP50%) and 35.0–88.8 km2 (Kernel 50%). Mean near neighbour distance between centres of 6 tracked pack homesites was 15.3 km. Differences in home range sizes between wolves in western and eastern Poland indicate that results of regional studies cannot be freely extrapolated despite close genetic relationships. Thus, decisions related to management of wolf habitats should be based on intensive local studies.