As stakeholder attitudes, values, and management preferences become increasingly diverse, managing human–wildlife conflicts will become more difficult. This challenge is especially evident in Massachusetts, USA, where furbearer management has been constrained by passage of a ballot initiative that outlawed use of foothold and body-gripping traps except in specific instances involving threats to human health or safety. Without regulated trapping, beaver (Castor canadensis) populations and damage attributed to them have increased. To develop an understanding of public attitudes regarding beaver-related management issues, we surveyed a random sample of Massachusetts residents in the spring of 2002 within 3 geographic regions where beaver are prevalent, as well as all individuals who submitted a beaver-related complaint to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife in 1999 and 2000. We found that respondents held generally positive attitudes toward beaver. Respondents who experienced beaver-related problems tended to have less favorable or negative attitudes toward beaver than people who did not experience beaver damage. Attitudes toward beaver became increasingly negative as the severity of damage experienced by people increased. We believe continued public support for wildlife conservation will require implementation of strategies that are responsive to changing attitudes of an urban population and within social-acceptance and biological carrying capacities.
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