Mad about Wildlife: Looking at Social Conflict over Wildlife

Mad about Wildlife: Looking at Social Conflict over Wildlife

Mad about Wildlife: Looking at Social Conflict over Wildlife

Mad about Wildlife: Looking at Social Conflict over Wildlife


This edited volume documents the presence and types of Nature discourse that emerge during conflicts between people over wildlife. This collection of qualitative case studies demonstrates how social groups create opposing symbolic meanings of Nature and highlights the way in which the successful imposition of those meanings affects wildlife, people generally, and management professionals. Together, the chapters illustrate the significant, untapped utility of constructionist approaches for understanding social conflict over wildlife issues and for managing natural resources in a way that acknowledges and incorporates different definitions of nature.


Theresa L. Goedeke, Ann Herda-Rapp

Competition over habitat and natural resources, the core conflict between wildlife and people, often gives rise to complex social issues. This is because there are essentially two dimensions to modern human-wildlife conflict, and they are closely related. the first dimension centers on conflict between people and wild animals. This friction may arise from the negative interactions that people have with wildlife, both individual animals (e.g., a raccoon in the chimney) and populations (e.g., flocks of geese on a golf course). the second dimension, and the focus of the present volume, encompasses conflicts among people, which frequently accompany instances of the former (e.g., public debate about if and how to decrease populations of Canada geese).

People can experience either positive or negative interactions with wildlife. the competition between wildlife and agricultural producers, the encroachment of people into wildlife habitat and the ability of wild animals to adapt to human communities all pave the way for negative encounters. Farmers and ranchers have perpetually pitted themselves and their industry against wildlife, mostly to the detriment of the latter. Elk, prairie dogs and bison, for instance, are despised for browsing on row crops or grass earmarked for livestock. Some wildlife species, such as the American bison, potentially play host to diseases feared by ranchers or public health officials. Finally, ranchers still commonly advance the age-old complaint that predators, such as wolves and grizzly bears, pose a threat to domestic livestock and, consequently, profit margins.

However, the fate of the rural or agricultural way of life is in many ways similar to that of wildlife as both come up against the new environments that we craft for future generations and ourselves. As the human population continues to increase throughout much of the world, people move about the landscape aspiring to those lifestyle choices presently en vogue; they are in hot pursuit of economic progress and personal dreams. the last remnants of habitat, often disguised as agricultural lands, fall to concrete mixers just as prairies fell to . . .

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