In the human dimensions of wildlife management, evaluating stakeholder perceptions of target species helps inform effective conservation efforts. Stakeholder perceptions are invaluable when managing taxa like bats, which may have historically negative cultural preconceptions. However, insectivorous bats provide critical ecosystem services in North America through agricultural insect pest control, and many of these species are threatened by white-nose syndrome (WNS), a disease caused by an invasive fungal pathogen. In Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GRSM), the most visited National Park in the United States (USA), bats are regularly observed roosting in historical buildings by visitors and park employees during summer. As a result, natural and cultural resource managers seek to ensure public safety and protect historical structures while minimizing impacts on bats, especially in light of declines in bat populations as a result of WNS. However, managers lacked information on visitor perceptions of bats and support for potential management action regarding the taxon. From June to August 2016, we surveyed 420 park visitors at three sites in the Cades Cove area of GRSM on their attitudes toward bats, perception of threats to and ecosystem services provided by bats, and support for management of bats. Most respondents supported management action to protect bats in buildings in Cades Cove during summer (76%). Standardized parameter estimates from a multiple linear regression developed with survey data indicated that attitudes toward bats and perception of threats to bats had the greatest effects on support for bat management. Wildlife management and conservation agencies seeking to further cultivate support for management of bats roosting in public spaces may apply these results in the design of tailored programming and outreach materials.
Biological Conservation – Elsevier
Published: Apr 1, 2018
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