• fear;
  • knowledge levels;
  • large herbivores;
  • public attitudes;
  • public involvement

Human dimensions research can help resource and wildlife managers make informed decisions, target information efforts, and gain a greater understanding of the factors that comprise attitudes toward wildlife management efforts. Despite these often-stated merits, studies addressing the human dimensions of resource and wildlife management efforts are rare in Europe. A proposed restoration of free-ranging European bison (Bison bonasus) in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, has presented an opportunity to help address this research gap. During May to July 2006, we used a randomly distributed, self-administered questionnaire (n = 398) to assess local residents’ attitudes, beliefs, and levels of support or opposition toward the proposed restoration. These factors were compared across two administrative regions spanned by the proposed restoration area. We found that respondents from the Siegen-Wittgenstein region held significantly more positive attitudes and significantly higher knowledge levels than respondents from the Hochsauerlandkreis region. Principal components analysis revealed that attitudes comprised a general attitude factor pertaining to issues such as the importance of conserving bison for future generations and a lifestyle impact factor, which included items pertaining to bison-caused damages to trees and crops. Logistic regression was used to show the influence of fear of bison on attitudes. We discuss the likely causes and management implications of our findings and provide suggestions to managers wishing to target information efforts and address the concerns of those affected by the proposed restoration.