Support for different types of wildlife management is related to underlying human values.
Conflicts between people over wildlife management are damaging, widespread, and notoriously difficult to resolve where people hold different values and worldviews. Cognitive approaches examining steps from human thought to action can help us understand conflict and explore strategies for their management. This study focused on the conflict between hunters and conservationists over the management of red grouse (Lagopus lagopus scoticus) and hen harriers (Circus cyaneus) in the English uplands which represents a classic, persistent conflict, where human dimensions are poorly understood. Guided by conceptual frameworks from social and environmental psychology, a questionnaire-based study to assess wildlife value orientations of key stakeholders was conducted. Quantified analysis on the attitudes towards hen harriers, grouse shooting, gamekeepers, and raptor conservationists were implemented. Measured support/opposition for harrier management strategies in England and investigated trust in the responsible government authority were also conducted. Data were gathered from 536 respondents from field sport or nature conservation organizations. Respondents were categorized according to the primary objectives of their affiliated organization: Field sport (i.e., hunters), Non-raptor, Pro-raptor, and Pro-bird (i.e., organizations promoting conservation of birds excluding raptors, raptors specifically, or birds generally). Utilitarian value orientations were prominent among Field sport and Non-raptor respondents. Most Pro-raptor and Pro-bird participants held mutualist value orientations, indicating they did not support shooting or management of wildlife. As suggested by the cognitive hierarchy, we found strong correlations between attitude and support for management options, our proxy for behaviour. Pro-bird affiliates showed clear preference for less invasive management, and along with Pro-raptor respondents did not support brood management (removal and later release of eggs/young when harrier density is high). Field sport individuals expressed a degree of support for all management types. Trust in Natural England was limited. Understanding value orientations and attitudes of stakeholders helps explain differences in levels of support for management approaches. Our study highlighted strongly divergent beliefs. Such positions are hard to change. Increasing the level of ecological knowledge alone is unlikely to facilitate conflict management. Instead, conflict management would benefit from combining such knowledge with a focus on relationships, deliberation, and trust in addition to exploring comanagement interventions.