Humans and Wildlife

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Human Wildlife Interaction: Impact on Psychological Wellbeing Ali Davidson

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Humans death instincts are responsible for our curiosity. Reasons we find carnivorous

wildlife intriguing is because of the danger they evoke. While we are drawn to these animals for their rareness, beauty, and intricacy to the harmony of nature, we fail to recognize their possible threats. Wildlife is necessary for a healthy environment, however, human carnivore encounters can cause larger complications than one would originally presume. These conflicts can cause threats to the economy, the health and safety of humans as well as the psychological well-being of people. More specifically, they can affect our livestock, increase transmission of diseases, as well as increase the likelihood of being attacked and being fearful of an attack. Being attacked or fearing an attack can be more psychologically damaging than one would think. Take for example, the deer attacks reported in California less than a century ago. Wild deer attacked three people and two neighborhood pets. The unsuspecting victims had been tending to their garden on both accounts. One victim was gored in the face and received 220 stitches after being rushed to the hospital. In the second attack a buck pinned down a man watering his vegetable garden. A woman then tried to scare off the animal and was gored in the arm. While the attacks are unusual, it could be a sign that “deer populations are getting crowded and too accustomed to human neighbors and their pets” says a wildlife biologist reporting to ABC News (Onion, 2005). Deer may be becoming more accustomed to people and less fearful of them. Nevertheless, this poses a problem to the well-being of these victims. In this example, these victims were attacked by unsuspecting herbivores. I would like to illustrate the health impacts of conflicts that go far deeper than immediate physical threat from wildlife. While research is limited on the topic, I question whether the psychological well-being of humans

impacted from herbivores would be worse off than victims affected by carnivores due to predictability. In order to determine this, we must first understand hierarchal relationships and how they unconsciously effect our interaction with wildlife. While there were many different opinions on the “Are Humans Apart of Nature” discussion, the overall consensus seemed to be that our ability to manipulate the environment and make tools, sets us apart from other animals by making us the dominant species. Following this model, one would assume that other omnivorous species come after humans, then carnivores, herbivores and subtypes of herbivores such as frugivores (fruit), palynivores (pollen), and nectarivores (nectar), and other organisms (Pattee, 1973). Psychologist Jean Piaget worked with economists and chemists to develop a ‘Principles of Hierarchy Theory.’ Hierarchies occur in social systems, biological structures and in biological taxonomies (Pattee, 1973). This theory helps organize our behavior systems and interactions with others of our same species as well as different species to maximize efficiency of our actions and lower our chances of being harmed. This theory is more a theory of observation and explains ways we develop construct systems. Simplified, construct systems help us interact with others by predicting behaviors. For example, if person ‘A’ were to be introduced to person ‘B’ they would make constructs (judgements) about each other and will use these observations for future encounters. Generally, judgements are made by comparison of oneself. We unconsciously take into account if the person we are interacting with is socially, economically, physically, etc... better than us. These are short cuts we use to improve our interactions by being efficient. While our construct are subject to change, one may rely so much on a construct that when it becomes invalid, it can cause tremendous psychological damage....
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