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Values and Attitudes toward Prairie Dogs
Prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.) have declined drastically over the past century. Conservation of the genus will require an interdisciplinary approach, including consideration of human values and related variables. We conducted a sample survey of the values, attitudes, knowledge, and perceptions of 900 residents of Montana, USA toward prairie dogs. Sub-samples included rural residents (n=300), urban residents (n=300), ranchers (n=150), and members of conservation organizations (n=150). On average, all sample groups except members of conservation organizations displayed little regard for prairie dogs, with the level of antagonism increasing from conservation organization members to urban residents, rural residents, and finally ranchers. Still, the average respondent from each group supported maintaining some prairie dogs. Values and attitudes toward prairie dogs were linked to issues of range management, especially on public lands. Sample groups varied with respect to attitudes and perceptions toward the management of public lands and prairie dogs inhabiting those lands. Ranchers and, to a lesser extent, rural residents believed that ranchers maintain limited control over publics lands which they would like to see increased. On average, members of conservation organizations and, to a lesser extent, urban residents believed just the opposite. If society chooses to conserve prairie dogs and the prairie dog ecosystem, it will require the development of well organized public relations and education programs that strive to strengthen supportive values and attitudes toward prairie dogs, while simultaneously changing or neutralizing negative values and attitudes. Simply providing information in an attempt to correct false perceptions will likely not be sufficient to induce value and attitude change. Broader, more comprehensive public relations and education programs are required.
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