MSU AgBioResearch scientist explores the social core of Michigan’s wolf debate

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Fear and caring are what’s at the core of divisive wolf debate. Photo by G.L. Kohuth     (view larger image)

Two Michigan State University (MSU) researchers have published a paper in the current issue of PLOS ONE that explores the social dynamics at play in the debate over hunting wolves in Michigan.

“People who are for or against this issue are often cast into traditional lots, such as gender, political party or where they live,” said Meredith Gore, MSU AgBioResearch associate professor of fisheries and wildlife and co-lead author of the study. “This issue, however, isn’t playing out like this. Concerns about hunting wolves to reduce conflict are split more by social geography and less by physical geography.

“Our findings challenge traditional assumptions about regional differences and suggest a strong role for social identity in why people support or oppose wildlife management practices,” said Gore, who co-led the research with Michelle Lute, former MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife graduate student who’s now at Indiana University.

While the study focused on gray wolves in Michigan, its results have implications for other states’ policies on wolves as well as other large carnivores such as brown bears, polar bears, mountain lions and other predators.

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