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Impacts of Big Game on Private Land in South-Western Montana: Landowner Perceptions

John R. Lacey, Keith Jamtgaard, Lex Riggle and Tiffany Hayes
Journal of Range Management
Vol. 46, No. 1 (Jan., 1993), pp. 31-37
DOI: 10.2307/4002444
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4002444
Page Count: 7
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Impacts of Big Game on Private Land in South-Western Montana: Landowner Perceptions
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Abstract

Increasing populations of big game animals are a problem for private landowners in some parts of western North America. Influence of big game costs, hunting-related income, noneconomic benefits, size of private land holding, and proportion of total income from agriculture upon landowner management goals as well as perception of damage to forage resources were studied in 1989-1990 using a mail survey of 858 randomly selected south-western Montana landowners. They reported that elk (Cervus canadensis) populations increased, did not change, or decreased on 71%, 25%, or 4% of their private lands, respectively. Similar trends were reported for mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), whitetail deer (Odocoileus virginia), and antelope (Antilocapra americana). More than 50% of the respondents thought that big game damaged forage and crop yields, while less than 2% of the respondents thought that big game was beneficial to forage and crop yields. Big game consumed a mean of 511 AUMs per private landowner, which contributed to the mean big game cost of $6,353 per landowner. Respondents desiring fewer elk, deer, and antelope outnumbered those desiring more by a 4-to-1 margin. As costs of big game increased and as dependency on agricultural income for livelihood increased, respondents desired fewer big game animals and perceived the impact of big game to be more harmful to forage and crop yields. Landowner attitudes toward big game were not significantly affected by economic returns from big game. Although owners with larger land holdings were more likely to allow hunters access to hunt big game, owners of large- and of small-sized ranches generally regarded big game populations similarly. Results from this survey should be useful in forming natural resource policy.

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