Date of Award:

8-2022

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Environment and Society

Committee Chair(s)

Jordan W. Smith

Committee

Jordan W. Smith

Committee

Zachary D. Miller

Committee

Russell Norvell

Abstract

The leading cause of mortality in California Condors (condors) is lead poisoning, which occurs when condors ingest lead-based ammunition left in carcasses. As a critically endangered species with approximately 115 individuals remaining in the American southwest, increasing the adoption of non-lead ammunition is essential to the recovery of the species. In Utah, the Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) uses communication with hunters as the primary tool for increasing the adoption of non-lead ammunition in southwestern Utah. In this research, we use social science theory and data collected from a survey of hunters throughout the region to develop a strategic communication framework aimed at increasing the use of non-lead ammunition among hunters. The strategic communication framework is intended to drive more specific, targeted, and effective messages regarding the use of non-lead ammunition by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and their conservation partners.

Our findings suggest hunters, on average, hold positive attitudes towards non-lead ammunition and that their intention to use non-lead ammunition while hunting in in the area is high. This is good news for the DWR as an initial concern of the agency was that hunters may tend to hold negative attitudes towards non-lead ammunition and not be aware of the agency’s preferences and programs regarding the behavior.

We asked hunters to self-report feelings of stewardship for the landscape and for the hunting tradition, believing that these feelings could be used as key leverage points to encourage the use of non-lead ammunition. These ‘personal norms’ were very strong amongst hunters; 92.7% of hunters consider themselves to be a steward of the natural landscape where they hunt and 88.4% believe they are stewards of the hunting tradition for future generations. Given these findings, we provide specific guidance on how the DWR can target personal norms in their communication with hunters regarding the use of non-lead ammunition. Tapping into feelings of stewardship over the landscape and family traditions are likely to be the most effective for effectuation behavioral change, reducing the use of lead ammunition, and conserving the condor population.

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