This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Human Dimensions of Whooping Crane Conservation in Alabama




Lessard, Sarah

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Forestry and Wildlife Science


Whooping Cranes (Grus americana) were historically present throughout Alabama, including coastal and interior regions of the state. However, in the early part of the 20th century, habitat alteration and unregulated human harvest led to the near extinction of the species. Following numerous reintroduction techniques, Whooping Cranes have once again begun utilizing habitat in northern portions of Alabama. Despite intensive protection and management of the species, recent shooting incidents in this region have raised concern that such illegal take is hindering the success of the species. The potential for future human-crane conflicts highlights the need for social science approaches. We developed survey questionnaires to understand the human dimensions of Whooping Crane conservation in northern Alabama. We examined differences in crane awareness, knowledge, attitudes, and behavioral intentions among waterfowl hunters in Alabama using birding specialization. Specialization level was positively related to awareness, knowledge, and conservation attitudes. Waterfowl hunters with greater knowledge and favorable attitudes toward cranes were more likely to donate to a hypothetical crane conservation fund. Additionally, we identified the factors that best predict attitudes and behavioral intentions of local residents, waterfowl hunters, and birders. Specific variables that were common among all audiences were personal norms and emotional dispositions. Our findings can be used to inform outreach strategies in an effort to support conservation of the species.