Stakeholder Perceptions of Risk Associated with Human-Black Bear Conflicts in New York's Adirondack Park Campgrounds: Implications for Theory and Practice

Authors

  • MEREDITH L. GORE,

    1. Human Dimensions Research Unit, Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
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    • E-mail: mlg35@cornell.edu

    • Meredith L. Gore (photo) is a Ph.D. candidate with the Human Dimensions Research Unit in the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University. Meredith earned an M.A. in environmental policy from George Washington University and a B.A. in anthropology and environmental studies from Brandeis University. Her research focuses on evaluating educational efforts to reduce human-wildlife conflict and wildlife-related risk communication.

  • BARBARA A. KNUTH,

    1. Human Dimensions Research Unit, Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
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    • Barbara A. Knuth is Professor and Chair in the Department of Natural Resources, and Co-leader of the Human Dimensions Research Unit at Cornell University. She holds a B.A. in zoology, a B.Phil. in interdisciplinary studies, and an M.En. in environmental sciences from Miami University (Ohio), and a Ph.D. in fisheries and wildlife sciences from Virginia Tech. She is President of the American Fisheries Society. Her research interests focus on integrating human dimensions into natural resources decision-making processes, and risk management and communication issues associated with natural resources.

  • PAUL D. CURTIS,

    1. Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
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    • Paul D. Curtis has coordinated the Wildlife Damage Management Program for Cornell Cooperative Extension during the past 15 years. He received a Ph.D. in zoology from North Carolina State University in 1990 and an M.S. in wildlife biology from Colorado State University in 1981. His research interests include wildlife damage management in urban and agricultural landscapes, wildlife fertility control, and resolving community-based wildlife issues. Extension programming has included public policy education and a variety of wildlife-related publications and videotapes.

  • JAMES E. SHANAHAN

    1. Department of Communication, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
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    • James (Jim) E. Shanahan is an Associate Professor in the Cornell University Communication Department. Jim earned a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, an M.S from Boston University, and a B.A. from Tufts. His research interests include mass media effects on attitudes toward natural resources.


Abstract

New York State's Adirondack Park is home to an estimated 6,000 black bears (Ursus americanus), about 75% of the state's total population. Human-bear interactions at the Park's nearly 100 campgrounds are commonplace. Some interactions are conflicts that include risks to personal safety and property damage. Between 19 June 2003 and 18 August 2003, we interviewed 54 Adirondack Park campers and caretakers at 7 campgrounds to determine stakeholder-perceived risks. We structured interviews to assess 9 possible constructs influencing risks not yet reported in the literature for human-bear conflicts from campground stakeholders' perspectives: volition of exposure; certainty; feelings of dread; perceived frequency of exposure to risk; responsiveness of black bear managers; trust in black bear managers; familiarity of risk; natural causes of risk; and control over risk. Overall, perceived risk associated with human-bear conflict was low. Evidence-based analysis revealed 8 of 9 constructs to be salient. We characterized salient constructs according to camper and caretaker perspectives. Caretakers had a higher risk perception than campers. Using camper comments as a foundation, we classified groups of constructs as agency capacity/responsiveness (i.e., incorporating volition, trust, and responsiveness of wildlife managers), and individual capacity/knowledge (i.e., incorporating perceived certainty, dread, and frequency, control over exposure to risks associated with black bears, and magnitude or acuteness of exposure to risks associated with black bears). With additional confirmatory analysis, these constructs and methodology may have the potential to increase understanding of risk perceptions associated with human-bear conflict and inform the content and format of strategic management plans incorporating risk management and communication. (WILDLIFE SOCIETY BULLETIN 34(1):36–43; 2006)

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