Learning to live with black bears: A psychological model of acceptance


  • Associate Editor: Miranda Mockrin.


The reappearance and recovery of large carnivores in human-dominated landscapes creates a need to understand how people will respond to the presence of these animals. We tested a psychological model of acceptance to determine what variables most influence people's acceptance for black bears (Ursus americanus) in an area with an emerging black bear population (Ohio, USA). We hypothesized that people's perceptions of risk and benefit related to bears would mediate the effect of trust (in wildlife management agencies) and personal control (over interactions with and management of wildlife) on acceptance for black bears. We used a mail-back survey of Ohio residents (n = 9,400; adjusted response rate = 35%) to assess the variables of interest and test the hypothesized model. Based on multiple criteria of model fit, the hypothesized model fit the data acceptably well. The model explained approximately 62% of the variance in acceptance, and perception of risk associated with black bears had the largest impact on the level of acceptance. As large carnivore populations expand and interactions with humans increase, our results will aid managers in designing outreach materials and communications aimed at promoting acceptance for large carnivores. Our model suggests that interventions raising an individual's social trust in the managing agency, or personal control can indirectly raise stakeholders' acceptance by reducing risk perception and increasing perception of benefit from carnivores. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.