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Open AccessArticle

Not in My Backyard: Public Perceptions of Wildlife and ‘Pest Control’ in and around UK Homes, and Local Authority ‘Pest Control’

1
Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Recanati-Kaplan Centre, Tubney House, Abingdon Road, Tubney, Abingdon OX13 5QL, UK
2
Campaigns Consultant to Humane Society International UK, 5 Underwood St, Hoxton, London N1 7LY, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(2), 222; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10020222
Received: 19 December 2019 / Revised: 23 January 2020 / Accepted: 24 January 2020 / Published: 30 January 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Welfare of Wild Vertebrates)
Wildlife causes ‘pest’ problems globally. Controlling wildlife involves killing and harming the welfare of many animals. We examined public perceptions of 10 wildlife species and wildlife management, in and around UK homes, as well as council ‘pest control’ services, to identify ethical, welfare-friendly ways to reduce wildlife problems. Most people had never had problems with each of the 10 species, and problems with some species were largely tolerated. Wasps, mice, and rats were the most frequently problematic species, the least tolerated and those for which councils most often offered ‘pest control’ services. People preferred Do-It-Yourself pest control over professional control, except for with wasps. They wanted control to be quick, lasting, and safe for people and non-target animals. Where people accepted the killing of wildlife, they still considered animal welfare important. Factors influencing pest status were complicated, while factors influencing people’s demand for pest control were fewer, simpler, and species-specific. Council pest control provision increased over the four years studied, but only half of councils offered advice on preventing/deterring wildlife; this advice was patchy and variable in quality. More effort should be put into preventing/deterring rather than controlling wildlife problems. Councils should provide standardised, informative advice on prevention/deterrence and prevention/deterrence services.
Human–wildlife conflict occurs globally. Attempts to control ‘pest’ wildlife involve killing and harming the welfare of animals on a vast scale. We examined public perceptions of 10 wildlife species/groups and wildlife management, in and around UK homes, and public authority ‘pest control’ provision, in an effort to identify ethical, welfare-friendly ways to reduce conflict. Most people reported never having problems with each of the 10 species, and reported problems for some species were largely tolerated. Wasps, mice, and rats were the most frequently problematic species, the least tolerated, and those for which local authorities most often offered pest control services. Do-It-Yourself pest control was preferred over professional control, except for with wasps. People wanted control to be quick, lasting, and safe for people and non-target animals. Where people accepted lethal control, they were nevertheless concerned for animal welfare. Drivers of pest status were complex, while drivers of demand for control were fewer and species-specific. Local authority pest control provision increased over the four years studied, but only half of councils offered advice on preventing/deterring wildlife; this advice was patchy and variable in quality. Greater focus is required on preventing/deterring rather than controlling wildlife problems. Councils should provide standardised, comprehensive advice on prevention/deterrence and prevention/deterrence services.
Keywords: attitudes; mouse; pest; pest control; rat; tolerance; vermin; wasp; wildlife; wildlife management attitudes; mouse; pest; pest control; rat; tolerance; vermin; wasp; wildlife; wildlife management
MDPI and ACS Style

Baker, S.E.; Maw, S.A.; Johnson, P.J.; Macdonald, D.W. Not in My Backyard: Public Perceptions of Wildlife and ‘Pest Control’ in and around UK Homes, and Local Authority ‘Pest Control’. Animals 2020, 10, 222.

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