Public perceptions of wildlife-associated disease: Risk communication matters

Daniel J. Decker*, William F. Siemer, Darrick T.N. Evensen, Richard C. Stedman, Katherine A. Mccomas, Margaret A. Wild, Kevin T. Castle, Kirsten M. Leong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Wildlife professionals working at the interface where conflicts arise between people and wild animals have an exceptional responsibility in the long-term interest of sustaining society's support for wildlife and its conservation by resolving human-wildlife conflicts so that people continue to view wildlife as a valued resource. The challenge of understanding and responding to people's concerns about wildlife is particularly acute in situations involving wildlife-associated disease and may be addressed through One Health communication. Two important questions arise in this work: (1) how will people react to the message that human health and wildlife health are linked?; and (2) will wildlife-associated disease foster negative attitudes about wildlife as reservoirs, vectors, orcarriers of disease harmful to humans? The answers to these questions will depend in part on whether wildlife professionals successfully manage wildlife disease and communicate the associated risks in a way that promotes societal advocacy for healthy wildlife rather than calls for eliminating wildlife because they are viewed as disease-carrying pests. This work requires great care in both formal and informal communication. We focus on risk perception, and we briefly discuss guidance available for risk communication, including formation of key messages and the importance of word choices. We conclude that the risk perception and communication research available is helpful but inadequate, and that thoughtful practice with respect to message and word choice is needed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number13
Pages (from-to)112-122
Number of pages11
JournalHuman–Wildlife Interactions
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2012


  • human dimensions
  • human-wildlife conflicts
  • messaging
  • risk communication
  • risk perceptions
  • wildlife disease
  • zoonotic disease


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