Sociological considerations are crucial to recovery efforts such as the proposed reintroduction of endangered black‐footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes) into Phillips County, Montana. Many past reintroduction attempts have failed or been less successful because they neglected these concerns. This study examined knowledge, attitudes, and opinions of ranchers toward black‐footed ferrets, prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.), and the proposed ferret reintroduction using informal, unstructured interviews and a mail sample survey. Ranchers within the proposed reintroduction site were antagonistic toward the program, the ferret, and especially the prairie dogs upon which black‐footed ferrets depend for survival. Of six sample groups, local ranchers scored highest on negativistic, libertarian/dominionistic, and utilitarian attitude scales and lowest on moralistic, humanistic, and naturalistic/ecologistic attitude scales. Their attitudes were most similar to those of ranchers statewide, followed by residents of Phillips County, Montana, Billings, Montana, residents, and members of the Montana Wildlife Federation; they were least similar to attitudes of members of conservation organizations other than the Montana Wildlife Federation. Local ranchers perceived themselves as having little knowledge of black‐footed ferrets, even though they received significantly higher scores on the black‐footed ferret knowledge scales than did most other groups, and they perceived themselves as having great knowledge of prairie dogs, even though their scores on the prairie dog knowledge scales were no better than any other group. These results are useful for ranking the suitability of reintroduction sites, for formulating policies, and for developing more effective public relations campaigns. The results highlight the need for education and public relations programs that do more than simply provide facts and information. Well‐conceived public relations programs should use pressure, purchase, and persuasion to try to change or neutralize opposition and to develop, conserve, and strengthen support. Endangered species reintroduction and recovery programs will rarely succeed if they do not actively consider and incorporate the values, attitudes, behaviors, and desires of the local public.
Conservation Biology – Wiley
Published: Sep 1, 1993
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