Managers and other stakeholders may rely on wildlife-related risk communication campaigns to prevent or reduce risks associated with human–wildlife conflict. The operating environment or the sphere of activity within which a campaign functions can influence a campaign's ability to achieve outcomes. Between 1 May 2005 and 30 October 2005, we studied human–black bear conflict in southeastern New York and the wildlife-related risk communication campaign, the New York NeighBEARhood Watch (NYNW). Based on the social amplification of risk framework, our goal was to determine whether mass media affected the operating environment of the campaign, and if so, identify the magnitude and direction of the effect. We used a self-administered mail survey (N = 2,800) in 4 southeastern New York, USA, towns to collect data about residents' perceived black bear-related risks, bear-related behavior, and exposure to the NYNW. We also conducted a content analysis of mass media coverage about black bears. Exposure to the NYNW from newspapers was positively correlated (R = 0.39, P < 0.01) with respondents' decreased acceptance of black bear-related risks. Our results showed a small social amplification of risk associated with black bears from exposure to mass media, specifically newspapers. Mass media can influence the operating environment of a wildlife-related risk communication campaign, including through amplification of risk perception. Characterizing the operating environment of campaigns is key to HWC-intervention planning, evaluation, and policy. Wildlife practitioners can consider media effects, as well as other biological and social factors, as potential influences on a campaign's operating environment and be aware that interaction effects may occur.
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Vol. 73 • No. 8