Authors' Names

Andrew MyersFollow

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Area of Focus

Social Sciences, Humanities

Abstract

In 2011, after nearly forty years of federal protection, gray wolves were removed from the Endangered Species List in Montana and their management entrusted to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. For some, wolves are critical to ecosystem health and an essential part of nature, for others they are a symbol of government overreach threatening their livelihoods and cultural values. The implementation of annual trapping seasons as a method to reduce perceived negative impacts from a growing wolf population has further inflamed an already embroiled debate. The purpose of this research was to investigate various meanings of wolves and wolf trapping being constructed in western Montana. A discourse analysis of reader-contributed newspaper texts in Missoula and Hamilton was conducted. Data between 5/9/2012 and 2/8/2014 were gathered from letters to the editor, guest columns, and online comments from the Missoulian and the Ravalli Republic and imported into NVivo. Following Potter and Wetherell’s (1987) guidelines to discourse analysis, these data were thematically coded and analyzed for patterns. Results reveal a significant range of themes across both study sites with the most prominent themes relating to ecological concerns and ungulates. Various meanings of wolves were identified such as the ‘ecological wolf’, the ‘endangered wolf’, the ‘predatory wolf’, and the ‘cold blooded killer wolf’, and various meanings of wolf trapping such as ‘trapping as public hazard’ and ‘trapping as management tool’. While it is no surprise that people have different perceptions, these finding suggest that, beyond perceptions, people are constructing vastly different realities about wolves and wolf trapping in a manner that encumbers the possibility for productive dialogue. This highlights an imperative need to reframe the debate over wolf management not as a competition of opposing values, but rather as an exercise in communicating across cultures.

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Apr 18th, 12:00 PM Apr 18th, 12:20 PM

Which wolf, which trap? Socially constructing wolves and trapping in western Montana

UC 331

In 2011, after nearly forty years of federal protection, gray wolves were removed from the Endangered Species List in Montana and their management entrusted to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. For some, wolves are critical to ecosystem health and an essential part of nature, for others they are a symbol of government overreach threatening their livelihoods and cultural values. The implementation of annual trapping seasons as a method to reduce perceived negative impacts from a growing wolf population has further inflamed an already embroiled debate. The purpose of this research was to investigate various meanings of wolves and wolf trapping being constructed in western Montana. A discourse analysis of reader-contributed newspaper texts in Missoula and Hamilton was conducted. Data between 5/9/2012 and 2/8/2014 were gathered from letters to the editor, guest columns, and online comments from the Missoulian and the Ravalli Republic and imported into NVivo. Following Potter and Wetherell’s (1987) guidelines to discourse analysis, these data were thematically coded and analyzed for patterns. Results reveal a significant range of themes across both study sites with the most prominent themes relating to ecological concerns and ungulates. Various meanings of wolves were identified such as the ‘ecological wolf’, the ‘endangered wolf’, the ‘predatory wolf’, and the ‘cold blooded killer wolf’, and various meanings of wolf trapping such as ‘trapping as public hazard’ and ‘trapping as management tool’. While it is no surprise that people have different perceptions, these finding suggest that, beyond perceptions, people are constructing vastly different realities about wolves and wolf trapping in a manner that encumbers the possibility for productive dialogue. This highlights an imperative need to reframe the debate over wolf management not as a competition of opposing values, but rather as an exercise in communicating across cultures.