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Graduate Defense: Karl Prokop

April 18 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Thesis Defense

Thesis Information

Title: Contributing Factors That Affect The Perception Of Canis Lupus, The Grey Wolf, In Idaho

Program: Master of Arts in Anthropology

Advisor: Dr. Kristin Snopkowski, Anthropology

Committee Members: Dr. Kathryn Demps, Anthropology; Dr. Jared Talley, School of Public Service; and Dr. Shelly Volsche, Anthropology


Human-wildlife coexistence has become a hot topic of late, especially in the case of the grey wolf, where there are two distinct camps, those who strongly support wolf conservation and those that strongly support wolf eradication. This research explores the factors that influence a person’s perception of the wolf. Some previous research suggests that formal education may be one important factor, where more formal education leads to more positive perceptions of the wolf. Other factors, such as geographic location (e.g., urban v. rural) have also been proposed as an important factor influencing wolf perception. While studies of these factors have been conducted around the US, no study has explored these factors in Idaho. This constitutes a gap in the literature. This research explores four research questions: 1) Does formal education influence wolf perception? 2) Does geographic location influence wolf perception? 3) Does one’s personal experience with wolves’ influence wolf perception? And finally, given the evolutionary history of wolves and dogs, does dog ownership lead to a more positive wolf perception? Through an on-line and mailed survey, over 100 participants from varying locations (e.g., remote, rural, suburban, and urban) provided information on their opinions of wolf-related conservation. A second survey was deployed to investigate whether dog ownership might influence wolf perception. Results show that formal education has no effect on wolf perception in Idaho. However, geographic location had a strong effect, where rural and remote participants had a significantly more negative perception of wolves. Further analyses exploring whether this was due to personal experience found no significant effect of personal experience on wolf perception, demonstrating a strong effect of cultural attitudes. Finally, the second survey showed a significant effect of dog ownership on a more positive perception of wolves, although due to a small sample of rural residents, caution is needed for these results. Results gathered here will contribute to efforts to engage diverse stakeholders in dialogue around human-wolf coexistence.