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Spatial variation in public attitudes towards brown bears in the French Pyrenees

Abstract : Human dimension is an important component of large carnivore management and conservation. Here, we focus on the human-wildlife conflict related to depredation of livestock by Pyrenean brown bears (Ursus arctos), despite the population being among the smallest in the world. Two reintroductions were performed in the past to ensure the survival of the population, yet its conservation status remains critical due to small size, heavy inbreeding and disagreements over its management. We investigated the often-neglected spatial variations in attitude towards predator presence to improve our understanding of the human dimensions surrounding this conflict. We used a questionnaire to assess the drivers explaining the attitude of the local human population (n = 577) of the Pyrenees towards bear presence. Our results show that spatial variables (place of birth and county of residence of the respondent) are strong predictors of attitude. The residents of two counties in particular (Haute-Garonne and Pyrénées-Atlantiques) displayed a positive attitude, while the residents of the Hautes-Pyrénées county had the most negative attitude. People born outside of the Pyrenees also showed a more positive inclination towards bear presence than people born and raised in France's southwestern mountain range. Both these results may imply a link between the history of local communities with predator presence and their current attitude. Accounting for small-scale spatial heterogeneity in social–ecological studies of human-wildlife conflicts will prove useful to get a more accurate mapping of attitudes and inform subsequent management decisions.
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Blaise Piédallu, Pierre-Yves Quenette, Coralie Mounet, Nicolas Lescureux, Maylis Borelli-Massines, et al.. Spatial variation in public attitudes towards brown bears in the French Pyrenees. Biological Conservation, Elsevier, 2016, 197, pp.90-97. ⟨10.1016/j.biocon.2016.02.027⟩. ⟨halshs-01629063⟩

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