Year of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Department or School/College
Environmental Studies Program
Alexander Metcalf, Elizabeth Covelli Metcalf
trapper, hunter, rancher, trapping, hunting, tolerance, public acceptance, Montana, wolf
University of Montana
The Public Trust Doctrine placed wildlife in trust, via state control and regulation, for the benefit of the people. Managing agencies that lose sight of the importance of public acceptance of predator policies and management actions may find themselves legislatively or judicially subverted. This study examines how the Montana public wolf hunting and trapping seasons have affected tolerance and acceptance of gray wolves (Canis lupus) among rural resident ranchers, hunters, and trappers. Twenty residents from the Blackfoot, Bitterroot, and Ninemile Valleys were qualitatively interviewed over the summer and fall of 2013. Potential participants were initially identified using purposive sampling, with subsequent interviewees located through snowball sampling. The presence or absence of the public wolf hunting and trapping seasons is not the sole determining factor of tolerance or intolerance of wolves in this sample population. The pattern of determinant factors instead more closely represents a web of influence than a direct line of cause and effect. Eight main nodes, or themes, were identified in interview transcription data identified based on frequency of occurrence in interview data and how essential they seemed in shaping attitudes of interviewees: 1) the consequences of political maneuvering (frustration, perceived inequity, and mistrust); 2) the need for management and control of the wolf population; 3) wolf-related impacts to interviewees’ livelihood and way of life; 4) personal beliefs, affects, and attitudes; 5) previous interactions with predators; 6) cultural influences; 7) the place and impact of wolves in the ecosystem; and 8) noted changes in opinion. Most themes were further divided into subthemes, and the connections between all themes and subthemes were examined from there. While the impacts of the seasons have not yet been great or entirely consistent across the sample population, statements made by interviewees suggest that removal of public wolf hunting and trapping liberties would greatly reduce tolerance and acceptance in these interest groups and increase an overall polarization of public opinions. Interview data reveal complex relationships between stakeholders, interest groups, and impacts from wolf re-establishment, as well as complex attitudes towards wolves that often incorporate some level of awe and admiration. Individual’s trust in managing agencies may be critical in moving forward. Data also shows that there will likely be more changes to come in this sample population’s acceptance and tolerance of wolves. Wolf tolerance and acceptance levels should be further monitored in Montana rural resident ranchers, trappers, and big game hunters, the stakeholder groups that are the most directly impacted by and most necessary for continued wolf management and recovery.
Mulder, Alia Winn, "Impacts of Montana Public Wolf Hunting and Trapping on Tolerance and Acceptance of Gray Wolves Among Rural Resident Ranchers, Trappers, and Big Game Hunters" (2014). Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers. 4267.
© Copyright 2014 Alia Winn Mulder