Date of this Version
Niemiec, R., R.E.W. Berl, M. Gonzalez, T. Teel, C. Camara, M. Collins, J. Salerno, K. Crooks, C. Schultz, S. Breck, and D. Hoag. 2020. Public perspectives and media reporting of wolf reintroduction in Colorado. PeerJ 8:e9074. doi: 10.7717/peerj.9074
In the state of Colorado, a citizen ballot initiative to reintroduce gray wolves (Canis lupus) is eliciting polarization and conflict among multiple stakeholder and interest groups. Given this complex social landscape, we examined the social context surrounding wolf reintroduction in Colorado as of 2019. We used an online survey of 734 Coloradans representative in terms of age and gender, and we sampled from different regions across the state, to examine public beliefs and attitudes related to wolf reintroduction and various wolf management options. We also conducted a content analysis of media coverage on potential wolf reintroduction in 10 major daily Colorado newspapers from January 2019, when the signature-gathering effort for the wolf reintroduction initiative began, through the end of January 2020, when the initiative was officially added to the ballot. Our findings suggest a high degree of social tolerance or desire for wolf reintroduction in Colorado across geographies, stakeholder groups, and demographics. However, we also find that a portion of the public believes that wolves would negatively impact their livelihoods, primarily because of concerns over the safety of people and pets, loss of hunting opportunities, and potential wolf predation on livestock. These concerns—particularly those related to livestock losses—are strongly reflected in the media. We find that media coverage has focused only on a few of the many perceived positive and negative impacts of wolf reintroduction identified among the public. Our findings highlight the need to account for this diversity of perspectives in future decisions and to conduct public outreach regarding likely impacts of wolf reintroduction.
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