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Open AccessArticle

Revisiting Hunter Perceptions toward Chronic Wasting Disease: Changes in Behavior over Time

1
Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, University of Delaware, 531 S College Avenue, Newark, DE 19716, USA
2
Department of Biology, Bemidji State University, 1500 Birchmont Drive, Bemidji, MN 56601, USA
3
Maryland Department of Natural Resources, 14038 Blairs Valley Road, Clear Spring7, MD 21722, USA
4
Responsive Management, 130 Franklin Street, Harrisonburg, VA 22801, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(2), 187; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10020187
Received: 4 December 2019 / Revised: 23 December 2019 / Accepted: 17 January 2020 / Published: 22 January 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Chronic Wasting Disease in Wild Cervids)
Hunters play a vital role in the management of wildlife diseases such as Chronic Wasting Disease, but their harvest rates may change based on their perception of disease risk. Our objective was to estimate how hunter harvest may change over time based on perception of disease and proximity to disease location. We found that hunters harvested fewer deer in the 4 years following disease discovery but that in the next 4-year period harvest rates increased to be similar to those from before the discovery of the disease. This indicates that changes in behavior due to disease presence may diminish over time. Understanding how hunters’ change their behavior in relation to disease presence will aid wildlife managers in creating plans to manage wildlife populations and diseases.
Hunter behavior varies in relation to perceived risk of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and changes in perceptions of CWD will lead to changes in behavior over time. During 2018, we surveyed deer (Odocoileus virginianus or Cervus nippon) hunters from Maryland, USA, regarding behavioral changes due to CWD. We matched 477 respondents to their harvest record and created two geographical groups based on harvest history in counties closest to disease presence. We compared the proportion of hunters who claimed to have changed their behavior in each group and estimated the effects of CWD on harvest rate for the 4 years immediately after the discovery of CWD and the following 4-year period. We found no difference between the groups in the proportion of hunters who changed their behavior due to CWD. We found a significant decline in harvest rate for hunters who claimed to change their behavior in the group closest to CWD presence during the period immediately after the discovery of CWD; however, these same hunters increased their harvest rates in the next time period to pre-CWD levels. Overall, we found that time alleviates some perceived risk of CWD and that this is reflected in hunting behavior. View Full-Text
Keywords: cervus nippon; chronic wasting disease; harvest; hunter perception; Odocoileus virginianus; sika deer; white-tailed deer cervus nippon; chronic wasting disease; harvest; hunter perception; Odocoileus virginianus; sika deer; white-tailed deer
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Holland, A.M.; Haus, J.M.; Eyler, T.B.; Duda, M.D.; Bowman, J.L. Revisiting Hunter Perceptions toward Chronic Wasting Disease: Changes in Behavior over Time. Animals 2020, 10, 187.

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