Human Dimensions I

Contributed Oral

Understanding Traditional and Non-Traditional Visitor Use Patterns on a Southern Michigan Game Area
Emily Pomeranz, Melissa Nichols, Frank Lupi

Michigan’s state game area (SGA) system provides habitat for a diversity of wildlife species, while offering a space for traditional wildlife-related recreation, including hunting, trapping, and wildlife viewing. While designated to provide for wildlife conservation and associated wildlife-related recreation, managers observe that some areas are also used for a diversity of non-wildlife related recreation, including but not limited to hiking, foraging, and bicycling. Results of past SGA assessments highlight the seasonal variability in recreational uses, as well as a tension between the intended use of the system for wildlife-related recreation and the actual use that includes recreation ostensibly not related to wildlife, particularly during the spring and summer. This has led a managerial conundrum. Should managers strive to intentionally manage for these users, and what are the tradeoffs for doing so relative to impacts on traditional users? As wildlife agencies seek to enhance relevancy and better connect with a broader base of beneficiaries, these alternative uses may present an opportunity to connect with new user groups through SGA management. The objectives of this study are to better understand visitation to an urban-adjacent, southern Michigan state game area, including visitation patterns, the magnitude of recreation visits, the primary and secondary purposes of visits, and visitor attitudes, desires for and satisfaction with management including benefits desired by game area users, as well as perceptions of management goals, programs, and amenities. We employed an in-person intercept roving-creel style survey, administered via tablets and mailback surveys coupled with parking lot vehicle counts from March 2019 to March 2020. Results of this research will help game area managers understand the value of the game area to users and identify tradeoffs in aligning management more effectively with both traditional and nontraditional user needs.

Crossbow Hunting in Illinois: Impact on Deer Hunting Participation, Harvest and Satisfaction
Eric Walberg, Craig Miller

Hunting participation in the United States, including Illinois, has declined over the past several decades. The popularity of hunting with crossbows may improve hunting participation in Illinois and other states by introducing young hunters to archery, reducing the impact of aging and physical limitations, and allowing hunters another opportunity to maximize time spent hunting. Our goal was to determine the impact of crossbows on hunting participation, harvest success, and satisfaction during the 2019-2020 deer hunting seasons in Illinois. In 2020, we randomly sampled 3,000 Illinois deer permit holders. A mail-based questionnaire was used to determine their attitudes, satisfaction, constraints, and related behaviors regarding deer hunting in Illinois. We received 1,417 questionnaires for a 49% response rate. Descriptive statistics were used to compare hunting participation, harvest success, and satisfaction among crossbow hunters and other archery hunters. Two-thirds of deer hunters (66%) hunted during the 2019-2020 Illinois deer archery season with 49% of archery hunters using a crossbow during the season. Half of crossbow hunters (51%) indicated they would not have participated in the 2019-2020 deer archery season if using a crossbow was not an option. The main reasons for using a crossbow during the deer hunting season were health/fitness limitations and increased accuracy. Satisfaction with their overall deer hunting experience was not significantly different between crossbow hunters and other archery hunters. On average, deer harvest per hunter was significantly higher among crossbow hunters than other hunters during the 2019-2020 deer archery season (0.5 vs 0.6 deer/hunter). Crossbow hunters were older on average than other archery hunters (57 vs 48 years old). In conclusion, we found that allowing use of crossbows during the deer archery season has the potential to increase participation and deer harvest, while allowing continued hunting participation by reducing constraints from health and physical limitations.

A Framework for the Eltonian Niche of Humans
Remington Moll, Alexander Killion, Robert Montgomery, Matt Hayward

Recent research has highlighted several influential roles that humans play in ecosystems, including that of a superpredator, hyperkeystone species, and niche constructor. This work has begun to describe the Eltonian niche of humans, which encompasses humanity’s cumulative ecological and evolutionary roles in trophic systems. However, we lack a unifying framework that brings together these strands of research, links them to ecoevolutionary and sociocultural theory, and identifies current research needs. We present such a framework in hope of facilitating a more holistic approach to operationalizing human roles in trophic systems across an increasingly anthropogenic biosphere. The framework underscores how humans play numerous nuanced roles in trophic systems, from top-down to bottom-up, that entail not only pernicious effects
but also benefits for many wildlife species. The framework also highlights how humans often drive many ecological interactions that have been identified in classical theory but have not typically focused on humans (e.g., exploitative competition, apparent competition, and indirect mutualism). Such a nuanced view of the Eltonian niche of humans is important for understanding complex social–ecological system functioning and enacting effective policies and conservation measures for wildlife.

Participation in Community Science on Private Lands Positively Influences Volunteers’ Conservation Behaviors
Rachael Green, Ashley Dayer, Amy Johnson

Conservation research on private lands is critical for generating knowledge to support biodiversity. Community science is increasingly being integrated into conservation research programs to enhance sampling efforts on private lands and may lead to additional conservation outcomes by positively influencing volunteers’ conservation behaviors. Our research sought to elucidate how volunteering as community scientists with a conservation research program impacted individuals’ conservation behaviors compared to those that had not volunteered as community scientists. We conducted an online survey of individuals (n = 238) associated with Virginia Working Landscapes, a Smithsonian conservation research program that works with community scientists to conduct biodiversity monitoring on private lands. Forty-four percent of respondents actively participated as community scientists while fifty-six percent did not (hereafter referred to as non-volunteers). Community scientists reported more positive impacts of the program on their engagement in conservation behaviors, including creating, managing, or restoring wildlife habitat on private (63% community scientists vs. 54% non-volunteers) and public lands (40% vs. 22%). Compared to non-volunteers, the program also had a greater impact on community scientists’ engagement in local conservation groups (63% community scientists vs. 26% non-volunteers), participation in other community science projects (56% vs. 20%), support for conservation issues through civic engagement (44% vs. 25%), and donations to conservation organizations (43% vs. 17%). Our findings illustrate the added value, beyond data collection, of incorporating community science into conservation research programs, as it has the potential to positively impact a broad range of conservation behaviors that extend beyond the scope of the program.

Risk Perceptions of CWD in Texas Across Host Species and Compared to Other Wildlife Diseases
Elena Rubino, Christopher Serenari

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) poses significant challenges for contemporary wildlife conservation and management. Incomplete understandings of disease etiology and epidemiology, uncertainty about the effectiveness of policy, and inconsistent management across jurisdictions abound. Given these gaps, it is perhaps unsurprising that public knowledge is deficient and risk perceptions associated with CWD are often inflated. However, it is vital that we seek to identify and fill knowledge gaps and address misconceptions to ensure that stakeholders are well-informed and support CWD management in the future. We used mail-based and online surveys to better understand hunters’ and landowners’ knowledge and risk perceptions related to CWD in Texas. We targeted risk perceptions of CWD across free-ranging deer, captive deer, and livestock host types, and compared these perceptions across multiple wildlife diseases (epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), Lyme disease, and bovine tuberculosis). Results indicate that there were consistent significant differences in perceived risk across host types for each disease investigated. Additionally, there were significant differences in some measures of perceived risk across diseases for free-ranging deer and captive deer. These findings suggest that messaging related to the implications of CWD to wildlife and livestock might improve communications about and management of CWD in Texas.

Social Norms and Illegal Take: Perceptions of Deer Poaching Among Ohio Hunters and Landowners
Shelby Carlson, Kristina Slagle, Alia Dietsch, Jeremy Bruskotter

The illegal take (i.e., poaching) of wildlife is a complex phenomenon with consequences that transcend species, boundaries, and time. Due to the covert nature of this human behavior, its detection and deterrence is predicated in part on our ability to identify the underlying drivers of illegal take behavior. Given recent incidents regarding the poaching of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) throughout Ohio, it is evident that an improved understanding of the cognitive and social processes by which individuals within the state decide to engage in this behavior is needed. As a result, the following study examines the impact of social norms on the perceived frequency of poaching of white-tailed deer among those most likely to interact with the species – i.e., hunters (n=2,874) and landowners (n=5,098). Results from linear regression analyses indicate that poaching is perceived to be significantly more common among hunters and landowners who believe that the illegal killing of deer would be considered acceptable by most people in their area, and among hunters who believe it would be acceptable to the people who are most important to them. In contrast, hunters and landowners who believe that a person engaging in illegal take behavior would be held accountable by their community perceived poaching to be uncommon. These findings demonstrate both the degree to which rules regarding the illegal killing of deer are considered important (i.e., norm salience) and the degree to which consequences would be expected if these rules were violated (i.e., norm enforcement). Furthermore, given that perceptions significantly differed based on the type of enforcement anticipated – i.e., informal sanctioning via one’s community versus formal sanctioning via wildlife officers – results can be used to inform future anti-poaching efforts.

Estimating Encounter Probabilities Among Recreational Trail User Groups
Shelby McCahon, Todd Brinkman, Ryan Klimstra

The global rise in nature-based recreation brings an increasing need for research on visitor activity, especially for multi-use trail systems. Conflict can often arise between different user groups that are using the same area at the same time (i.e., physical encounters) which our present study investigates on a winter multi-use refuge in Fairbanks, Alaska. Our goal was to develop a technique that can generate spatially- and temporally-explicit estimates of trail-use activity and encounter probabilities among different user groups that can be altered for any recreational trail system. Using trail cameras, we monitored winter recreational activity from November 2019 to April 2020 (n=133 days) and sorted users into three user groups: 1) snowmobile users (motor-powered), 2) dog mushers and skijorers (dog-powered), and 3) hikers, bikers, and skiers (human-powered). By calculating the total number of occurrences and proportion of activity across all user groups at each camera location, we were able to identify hotspots of activity (near trail access points) and peak times (14:01-15:00), days (Saturdays and Sundays), and months (December, February, and March) that may have higher potential for physical encounters and conflict. Using multiplication and addition probability rules, we were able to estimate the probability of user groups occupying each trail segment, along with the probability of encounter between different user groups. We scaled up these probability estimates both temporally (hourly and daily) and spatially (region specific and refuge-wide), and found that daily occupancy probabilities ranged from 0.12-0.99 and that encounter probabilities varied regionally for each user group (ex. 0.88 in western region and 0.48 in eastern region for dog-powered users). This novel tool can be used and altered for any recreational trail system to help identify locations that may have the highest potential for conflict, which may help improve visitor experience and overall trail-user satisfaction.

Contributed Oral
Location: Virtual Date: November 2, 2021 Time: 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm