Vol. 38 (2015)
Research Project Human Dimensions

Influence of the River Otter (Lontra Canadensis) on the Formation of Pro-Conservation Intentions in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Kelly J. Pearce
University of Maryland
Tom L. Serfass
Frostburg State University

Published 2015-01-01


The potential to increase participation in support and fundraising, as well as affect pro-conservation intentions and behaviors makes the flagship approach valuable to conservation. Flagships are charismatic species that engender public interest and promote broader ecological and economic values of conservation. Advocates for wildlife tourism suggest that viewing flagships can increase touristsâ awareness and participation in conservation behaviors such as philanthropy, volunteering and activism. However, empirical support for behavioral outcomes associated with flagship exposure is lacking. Exposure to a flagship can vary, such as exposure to marketing materials (i.e., websites, guide books, environmental organizations) or direct viewing experience (i.e., wild, captive). The specific goal of this study was to: (a) determine if direct exposure to the river otter, or marketing material about the species and/or (b) a personâs level of environmental concern influences behavioral intentions to conserve the river otter and its habitat. On-site self-administered questionnaires (n =523) were conducted at 6 locations throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) from 5 June 2015 to 24 August 2015. The results of this study suggests that exposure to the river otter heightens concern and can lead to the formation of specific environmental intentions such as keeping local waterways unpolluted and planting trees along local waterways.