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Keywords:

  • birding;
  • birdwatching;
  • citizen science;
  • conservation behavior;
  • human dimensions;
  • hunters;
  • recreation;
  • rural lands;
  • wildlife-based recreation

ABSTRACT

There is a widely held assumption that outdoor experiences are a key precursor to pro-environmental behavior (PEB). We tested the hypothesis that wildlife recreationists are more likely than non-recreationists to voluntarily engage in different types of PEB, grouped as conservation behaviors and environmental lifestyle behaviors. Via mail and web-based surveys of rural New York residents (n = 941), we compared the self-reported PEBs of 4 types of recreationists: hunters, birdwatchers, hunter–birdwatchers (i.e., individuals who regularly engaged in both activities), and non-nature-based recreationists. We statistically controlled for group differences in socio-demographic characteristics and environmental beliefs. We found wildlife recreationists—both hunters and birdwatchers—were 4–5 times more likely than non-recreationists to engage in conservation behaviors, which included a suite of activities such as donating to support local conservation efforts, enhancing wildlife habitat on public lands, advocating for wildlife recreation, and participating in local environmental groups. Moreover, effects were additive; hunter–birdwatchers had the greatest likelihood of engaging in all types of conservation behaviors. On the other hand, engagement in environmental lifestyle behaviors such as recycling, energy conservation, and green purchasing were roughly comparable among all types of wildlife recreationists and non-recreationists. Our findings of elevated rates of conservation behaviors among hunters and birdwatchers despite different demographic attributes and environmental beliefs highlight the similar conservation potential associated with different types of wildlife recreation. Diversified strategies that include programs to encourage both hunting and birdwatching are likely to bring about long-term gains for conservation. © 2015 The Wildlife Society.