skip to main content


Title: Human–Wildlife Interactions and Coexistence in an Urban Desert Environment

Negative interactions between people and wildlife pose a significant challenge to their coexistence. Past research on human–wildlife interactions has largely focused on conflicts involving carnivores in rural areas. Additional research is needed in urban areas to examine the full array of negative and positive interactions between people and wildlife. In this study, we have conducted interviews in the desert metropolis of Phoenix, Arizona (USA), to explore residents’ everyday interactions with wildlife where they live. Our multifaceted approach examines interactions involving physical contact and observational experiences, as well as associated attitudinal and behavioral responses and actions toward wildlife. Overall, the qualitative analysis of residents’ narratives identified two distinct groups: people who are indifferent toward wildlife where they live, and those who appreciate and steward wildlife. Instead of revealing conflicts and negative interactions toward wildlife, our findings underscore the positive interactions that can foster human wellbeing in urban areas. The holistic approach presented herein can advance knowledge and the management of coexistence, which involves not only managing conflicts but also tolerance, acceptance, and stewardship. Understanding diverse human–wildlife interactions and managing coexistence can advance both wildlife conservation and human wellbeing in cities.

 
more » « less
Award ID(s):
1638725 1832016
NSF-PAR ID:
10471411
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
MDPI
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Sustainability
Volume:
15
Issue:
4
ISSN:
2071-1050
Page Range / eLocation ID:
3307
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Introduction

    Human-wildlife coexistence in cities depends on how residents perceive and interact with wildlife in their neighborhoods. An individual’s attitudes toward and responses to wildlife are primarily shaped by their subjective cognitive judgments, including multi-faceted environmental values and perceptions of risks or safety. However, experiences with wildlife could also positively or negatively affect an individual’s environmental attitudes, including their comfort living near wildlife. Previous work on human-wildlife coexistence has commonly focused on rural environments and on conflicts with individual problem species, while positive interactions with diverse wildlife communities have been understudied.

    Methods

    Given this research gap, we surveyed wildlife attitudes of residents across twelve neighborhoods in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area, AZ to ask: how do the environments in which residents live, as well as their values, identities, and personal characteristics, explain the degree to which they are comfortable living near different wildlife groups (coyotes, foxes, and rabbits)?

    Results

    We found that residents who were more comfortable living near wildlife commonly held pro-wildlife value orientations, reflecting the expectation that attitudes toward wildlife are primarily driven be an individual’s value-based judgements. However, attitudes were further influenced by sociodemographic factors (e.g., pet ownership, gender identity), as well as environmental factors that influence the presence of and familiarity with wildlife. Specifically, residents living closer to desert parks and preserves were more likely to have positive attitudes toward both coyotes and foxes, species generally regarded by residents as riskier to humans and domestic animals.

    Discussion

    By improving understanding of people’s attitudes toward urban wildlife, these results can help managers effectively evaluate the potential for human-wildlife coexistence through strategies to mitigate risk and facilitate stewardship.

     
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Integrating social and ecological knowledge is requisite for solutions to global conservation problems, including human–wildlife conflict, but gathering sufficient data to facilitate integration has proved difficult. Social–ecological systems models have also traditionally overlooked individual human thought and behavior that can affect the success of management interventions. In response to these challenges, we drew upon psychological theory and long‐term ecological data on wildlife populations and conflict occurrence to inform qualitative research on pastoralists' values toward wildlife in the northern Namib Desert. We explored how values and ecological conditions shaped individuals': (a) interactions with and tolerance of species; and (b) perceptions of challenges and potential solutions to living with wildlife. Semi‐structured interview data revealed a prevailing domination value orientation toward wildlife, reflected in concerns for human and livestock wellbeing. Despite these concerns and high rates of reported conflicts, pastoralists were generally tolerant of wildlife, including predators, and indicated this in their proposed management solutions. In addition to its practical implications for informing human–wildlife coexistence strategies in the Namibian context, our approach advances knowledge about wildlife values globally, offers insights on the utility of qualitative assessments for cross‐cultural social–ecological systems research, and furthers understanding of conservation challenges and opportunities in extreme arid environments.

     
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Coexistence between large carnivores and humans is a global conservation concern. Montana (USA) is home to recovering grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) populations and increasing human–grizzly interactions. In 2019, we administered a survey of Montanans to investigate factors influencing normative beliefs about grizzly bear population sizes and quantify the relationship between these beliefs and satisfaction with grizzly management in the state. Using a linear regression (r2 = .61), we found that residents with positive attitudes and emotional dispositions toward grizzlies or who trusted the agency were more likely to believe grizzly populations were too low. Residents who believed hunting should be used to manage conflict, were themselves hunters, had vicarious wildlife experience with property damage, believed grizzly populations were expanding, or were older were more likely to believe populations were too high. We found a negative quadratic relationship between normative grizzly bear population size beliefs and satisfaction with management, suggesting an optimal “Goldilocks” zone where coexistence is most possible. In practice, if observed Goldilocks zones are incompatible with population numbers required to meet conservation goals, considering factors influencing these beliefs may help bolster acceptance of larger population sizes.

     
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    The impacts of urbanization on bird biodiversity depend on human–environment interactions that drive land management. Although a commonly studied group, less attention has been given to public perceptions of birds close to home, which can capture people's direct, everyday experiences with urban biodiversity. Here, we used ecological and social survey data collected in the metropolitan region of Phoenix, Arizona, USA, to determine how species traits are related to people's perceptions of local bird communities. We used a trait‐based approach to classify birds by attributes that may influence human–bird interactions, including color, size, foraging strata, diet, song, and cultural niche space based on popularity and geographic specificity. Our classification scheme using hierarchical clustering identified four trait categories, labeled as Metropolitan (gray, loud, seedeaters foraging low to ground), Familiar (yellow/brown generalist species commonly present in suburban areas), Distinctive (species with distinguishing appearance and song), and Hummingbird (hummingbird species, small and colorful). Strongly held beliefs about positive or negative traits were also more consistent than ambivalent ones. The belief that birds were colorful and unique to the regional desert environment was particularly important in fortifying perceptions. People largely perceived hummingbird species and birds with distinctive traits positively. Similarly, urban‐dwelling birds from the metropolitan trait group were related to negative perceptions, probably due to human–wildlife conflict. Differences arose across sociodemographics (including income, age, education, and Hispanic/Latinx identity), but explained a relatively low amount of variation in perceptions compared with the bird traits present in the neighborhood. Our results highlight how distinctive aesthetics, especially color and song, as well as traits related to foraging and diet drive perceptions. Increasing people's direct experiences with iconic species tied to the region and species with distinguishing attributes has the potential to improve public perceptions and strengthen support for broader conservation initiatives in and beyond urban ecosystems.

     
    more » « less
  5. The goals of this research were to create a labeled dataset of tree shadows and to test the feasibility of shadow-based tree type identification using aerial imagery. Urban tree big data that provides information about individual trees can help city planners optimize positive benefits of urban trees (e.g., increasing wellbeing of city residents) while managing potential negative impacts (e.g., risk to power lines). The continual rise of tree type specific threats, such as emerald ash borer, due to climate change has made this problem more pressing in recent years. However, urban tree big data are time consuming to create. This paper evaluates the potential of a new tree type identification method that utilizes shadows in aerial imagery to survey larger regions of land in a shorter amount of time. This work is challenging because there are structural variations across a given tree type and few verified tree type identification datasets exist. Related work has not explored how tree structure characteristics translate into a profile view of a tree’s shadow or quantified the feasibility of shadow-only based tree type identification. We created a consistent and accurate dataset of 4,613 tree shadows using ground truthing procedures and novel methods for ensuring consistent collection of spatial shadow data that take binary and spatial agreement between raters into account. Our results show that identifying trees from shadows in aerial imagery is feasible and merits further exploration in the future. 
    more » « less