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Peterson, M.N., A.G. Mertig, and Jianguo Liu. 2006. "Effects of zoonotic disease attributes on public attitudes towards wildlife management." Journal of Wildlife Management, 70(6): 1746-1753.
Society faces a growing challenge in the management of zoonotic wildlife diseases. Unique attributes of zoonotic diseases and the shifting sociocultural contexts within which diseases are experienced create serious challenges for managers. We address 2 critical questions: how do uncertainty and severity associated with a zoonotic disease relate to public management attitudes and preferences, and do immigrant attitudes and preferences differ from those of long-term residents in rural areas of the Intermountain West? We addressed these questions using a personally administered questionnaire in Teton County, Idaho, USA. Based on 2 hypothetical zoonotic wildlife diseases, one less severe and more known (type A) and one more severe and less known (type B), we asked respondents to indicate their agreement with 13 statements regarding their perception of the disease and management preferences. We also asked respondents to indicate their support for different groups controlling management. Our compliance rate was 95% (n = 416, sampling error +/- 4.8%). Respondents considered type B a greater risk to human and livestock health, and supported using lethal control methods, except hunting, to control it. Disease type, however, had less impact on public support for management options involving fencing and supplemental feeding. With only 2 exceptions, longer-term residents (LTR) supported lethal management options more than newer residents (NR). Further, NR hunted less than LTR, thereby restricting lethal management options. Respondents indicated some level of support for all management control options except giving authority to local civic leaders. Newer residents showed higher support for wildlife scientists and federal agencies making management decisions, whereas LTR preferred state livestock agencies. Demographic change in rural areas may lead to higher levels of support for federal and scientific control over zoonotic disease management but lower support for lethal management and ability to enact lethal management. Our results suggest 2 critical management needs: solicitation and consideration of public input for type A zoonotic disease management and promotion of hunting or developing a viable lethal management alternative.