In Massachusetts, USA, both human and beaver (Castor canadensis) population levels are increasing, beaver damage complaints are escalating, and beaver management options are restricted by the 1996 Wildlife Protection Act. We looked at the public's norms toward beavers in Massachusetts. In 2002 we sent a mail-back questionnaire to a random sample of 5,563 residents in 3 geographic regions in Massachusetts and to residents who submitted a beaver complaint to Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) in 1999–2000 (47.3% overall response rate). Respondents supported some form of beaver management. As severity of beaver damage was perceived to increase, respondents were more willing to accept lethal management and control of beavers. These results emphasize the importance of how tolerance and acceptability of wildlife are influenced by the type of activity the animal is engaged in, the type of management action that is proposed, the positive or negative perception of a species in the eye of the public, and the public's preference for future population levels. A full understanding of these 4 points will help tailor management accordingly, because this knowledge can define a threshold of acceptance by the public for anticipated management actions. Restoration of full beaver management authority to the cognizant wildlife management agency would facilitate application of normative information to determine appropriate management response for minimizing conflicts between humans and beavers.
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Vol. 73 • No. 7