Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Hunting Specialization and Its Relationship to Participation in Response to Chronic Wasting Disease

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Hunting Specialization and Its Relationship to Participation in Response to Chronic Wasting Disease

Article excerpt


Chronic wasting disease (CWD) has generated considerable concern among biologists, wildlife managers, hunters, and other stakeholders (Williams, Miller, Kreeger, Kahn, & Thorne, 2002). CWD is a neurological disease of deer (Odocoileus spp.), elk (Cervus elaphus), and moose (Alces alces) (Colorado Division of Wildlife, 2005; Williams & Young, 1980, 1982). In all infected animals, the disease causes excessive salivation, loss of coordination, abnormal behavior, emaciation, and death. CWD belongs to a family of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle (i.e., BSE, mad cow), scrapie in sheep, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans (McKintosh, Tabrizi, & Collinge, 2003). No evidence exists to suggest that CWD is a human health risk, but the possibility of transmission to humans cannot be dismissed (Belay et al., 2004; Raymond et al., 2000; Salman, 2003).

CWD has been found in free-ranging deer and elk in 11 states (Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming) and two provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan). The disease was also recently discovered in moose in Colorado (Colorado Division of Wildlife, 2005). Hunting declines attributable to CWD have occurred in some states (Heberlein, 2004; Vaske, Timmons, Beaman, & Petchenik, 2004). If CWD conditions continue to worsen, several states may experience a substantial decrease in hunting participation (Needham, Vaske, & Manfredo, 2004). Little is known, however, about whether changes in participation may differ among subgroups of hunters.

Compared to novices or newcomers, hunting is more central to the lifestyle of specialized hunters who devote more time and effort to the sport (Kuentzel & Heberlein, 1992; Miller & Graefe, 2000). It is possible that specialized hunters are less likely to be distracted by CWD or allow it to alter their hunting behavior. This article examines the extent to which CWD may influence hunters to hunt in other states or stop hunting permanently, and whether this displacement and desertion differ among subgroups of hunters based on their degree of recreation specialization in the activity.

Review of Literature

Human Dimensions of CWD

In North America, hunting participation has decreased (Brown, Decker, Siemer, & Enck, 2000; Heberlein & Thompson, 1996). Some of this decline can be attributed to personal (e.g., age, lack of time) and situational (e.g., lack of available land to hunt, too many regulations) constraints (Miller & Vaske, 2003). Wildlife agencies are concerned that hunters' perceptions of possible unknown risks associated with CWD may erode their confidence and willingness to hunt in states where the disease is found (Gigliotti, 2004). Declines in hunting due to CWD are problematic because they can: (a) reduce license sale revenues, (b) limit an agency's ability to manage game species, (c) decrease support for wildlife agencies, (d) impact wildlife management programs (e.g., pheasant stocking) if funds get diverted to address CWD, and (e) constrain cultural traditions and the social and economic stability of communities dependent on hunting (Needham et al., 2004).

Given these potential consequences, research has focused on the extent to which hunters might change their behavior in response to CWD (Gigliotti, 2004; Miller, 2003, 2004; Needham et al., 2004; Vaske, Needham, Newman, Manfredo, & Petchenik, 2006; Vaske et al., 2004). Studies have presented hunters with hypothetical scenarios depicting manipulated levels of CWD prevalence (e.g., 1% or 5% deer or elk infected). Hunters reported their behavioral intentions for each scenario (e.g., continue or stop hunting). Between 10% and 20% of Wisconsin and South Dakota deer hunters, for example, reported that they would stop hunting in the management unit (i.e., agency-defined zones for hunting within county/state) that they hunt in most often if 5% to 20% of its deer had CWD (Gigliotti, 2004; Vaske et al. …

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