Latvian Public Perception Of Large Carnivores
Knowledge of and attitudes of Latvians toward brown bears, lynx, and wolves were assessed through surveys. Brown bears are rare and protected, whereas lynx and wolf are considered game species. Surveys were distributed in public schools and to a self-selected sample of readers of a national hunter’s magazine.
Among the three species considered, the most positive attitudes were toward brown bears. Negative attitudes were a result of real or perceived effects large carnivores have on livestock husbandry and game management. The proportion supporting bear protection was 72% among rural inhabitants, compared with 69% among urban dwellers. Bear control was supported by 26% of urban dwellers and 21% of rural inhabitants.
A majority of respondents believe that wolf and lynx populations should be controlled, but very few respondents supported total eradication of large carnivores in Latvia. A greater proportion of rural inhabitants favored control of carnivore populations than residents in other locales. In contrast, hunters (almost entirely male, mostly rural, and somewhat older) favored unlimited harvesting of large carnivores.
An age-biased attitude regarding the knowledge of wolf and bear numbers, the wolf hunting ban, and preferred policies toward bears seems to exist. The older generation (>50) tended to be more negative toward carnivore protection, and the proportion supporting total eradication of large carnivores was higher among the older age respondents.
Most respondents expressed interest in obtaining more information on large carnivores, suggesting a role for an expanded education campaign.