PUBLIC OPINION Poll results
In autumn 2021, Institute Lutra and Valicon carried out public opinion poll focused on researching general beaver knowledge and public attitude towards beavers. The research was based on 515 participants in Slovenia and 502 participants from Croatia.
Only people from regions, where beavers are known to exist, or there is a possibility for them to spread to, were invited to participate in the survey. Two regions in Slovenia, Primorska and Notranjsko-kraška region, were not included within the survey, as the beaver is absent from these two areas. The beaver is also highly unlikely to spread to these areas in the near future, due to physical barriers in the way. It was similar for some of the sea-side Croatian regions or counties.
The survey showed a relatively positive attitude towards beavers. Up to 70% of both Slovenian and Croatian participants questioned stated, that the thought of beavers was to some degree pleasant to them. In both countries people also stated that beavers were more useful to the environment than harmful. It was also general opinion that beaver activity should be allowed, however, it should be at the same time carefully regulated and managed.
Approximately half (47%) of all the participants in Slovenia and 51% of participants in Croatia have positive attitude towards beavers present on their land. Against the beaver presence on private land is approximately one third of the participants (36%) in Slovenia and 37% in Croatia. Undecided against this topic is 16% of the Slovenians and 12% of the Croatians.
There were some problems knowing certain ecology details from the life of a beaver, both in Slovenia as well as Croatia. Approximately 60% of the participants would like to know more of the life of a beaver.
Most of the dilemmas happened where people had to decide whether some of the statements were true or false. For example, one such difficult statement was whether beavers truly start to build dams, when hearing the water flow. Uncertainty also showed when assessing the statement, if beavers truly decrease the likelihood of floods. Both statements are correct. There is also some misinformation circling around general public regarding beaver eating habits as approximately 50% of participants in both countries were of the opinion that beavers eat fish. There was also high misinformation present regarding beaver being extinct in both countries for the last 200 years. Only 23% of participants in Slovenia and 13% of participants in Croatia knew that the statement is true.
ASSESSMENT ON CURRENT LEVEL OF AWARENESS AMONG MANAGERS OF PROTECTED AREAS, WATERS AND WOODLANDS (POLL RESULTS)
Between the end of December 2022 and middle of February 2022 we carried out an opinion poll focused on awareness and attitude towards bevers among protected sites managers, such as Natura 2000 and other national protected areas (National, Regional and Local parks), water-ways managers as well as woodland managers. The survey was sent to The Slovenia Forest Service employees (including regional foresters), to the Institute of the Republic of Slovenia for Nature Conservation, to the Slovenian Water Agency, Fisheries Research Institute of Slovenia, Chamber of Agriculture and Forestry of Slovenia (CAFS), DOPPS – BirdLife Slovenia (only to the reserve managers Ormoške lagune and Iški morost) as well as to all of the National, Regional as well as Local parks. The survey was set up using on-line A1 portfolio, the analysis of the results was undertaken by company Valicon under the leadership of Matej Mrevlje. As a template, we used similar questions as in the general public opinion poll, but they were adapted, to be suitable for more targeted audiences.
We, as well, added additional two questions:
- Is the beaver present in your regional area/area of management and if it is, in what way do you notice its presence?
- What is or what do you think is the biggest problem due to beaver activities in your regional area/area of management?
The survey produced 299 filled out questioners, 266 of them were completely filled out. In comparison with the general public opinion poll, it was clear that the site managers had a better understanding of the life and role of beavers in our environment. The only statement the site managers had problems with was, that the beaver starts building dams when it hears the sound of flowing water. Only about one fifth (19%) of the managers agreed that the statement is true. In comparison, 26% of the general public in Slovenia and 31% of the general public in Croatia agreed with the before mentioned statement.
The site managers were in general more favourably inclined towards beavers and were of the opinion that people should let the beaver continue with its environmental engineering activities, but they are also aware of the problems which can arise (damage to the trees and increased flooding) and therefore they excessively emphasized the need of active management after active monitoring of the beaver population. The lowest percentage of the site managers (38%) out of all of the so far targeted groups, agreed with the statement that no beaver is allowed to be shot.
Half of the site managers questioned confirmed that the beaver is already present on their management area, but despite this, not all managers have a direct contact with the beaver. The majority of those who do come across a beaver are predominantly involved with field work, the nature of work involving observation and surveying of landscape, identification and evaluation of reported damage and the consequences of beaver activities.
The attitude towards the benefits or damages caused by beavers amidst the general public and site managers did not differ significantly, which indicates, that it is a necessity to carry out further informational lectures and workshops for both target groups. As many as one fifth of the questioned site managers (similar to general public) could not decide whether beavers are beneficial or damaging to the environment.
A bit higher proportion of the site managers in comparison to the general public is of the opinion, that the beaver population in their area needs to increase.
The site managers see a substantial danger in the damage beavers can cause involving flooding of roads, houses, fields as well as blocking culverts.
Most of the suggested mitigation measures to counteract beaver activity, were not taken up by the site managers. So far, most of them looked up available literature to search for various solutions, as well as tree protection. Similarly, as with general public, site managers also detected low tolerance to more »violent« measures, such as hunting and chasing beavers away from an area. As a favourite incentive to increase beaver favourability, the managers listed financial compensation to keep the riverbanks intact for the beaver families, financial compensation for the occurred damage, as well as a visit from a beaver expert to teach and explain mitigation measures to lessen the conflicts. The general public also listed as one of the measures, which would be well accepted, to be expert help in protecting trees from being gnawed by beavers in the proximity of their homes.
You can see the whole report on managers’ opinion poll (as well as a comparison between the managers’ and general public poll results) here (in Slovene only).
ASSESSMENT ON CURRENT LEVEL OF AWARENESS AMONG FARMERS AND LANDOWNERS (POLL RESULTS)
Between January 27th, 2022, and March 10th 2022 we carried out an opinion poll focused on awareness and attitude towards beavers among farmers and landowners.
The survey was set up using an on-line template (https://www.1ka.si/), and the analysis of results was carried out by Valicon company (Mr. Matej Mrevlje). There were same questions as in the general public opinion poll, but they were adapted, to be suitable more for this specific target audience.
For farmers, we added additional questions:
What is your view on the fact that beavers live or would live on your land?
Is the beaver present on your land and if so, in what way do you notice its presence?
Which category does your farm fall into according to orientation/activities (multiple answers possible)? (e.g., Organic, Tourist, Livestock, Herbal etc.).
Would you be prepared to abandon tillage on the coastal land along the watercourses (5 m wide strip at streams or 15 m at rivers) and, if so, under what conditions?
The survey produced 129 completed questionnaires. The respondents were in average quite highly educated (87% having completed at least high school education or higher). 57% respondents were from Pomurje region. Most farms were agricultural/livestock, 23% were organic ones.
In general, farmers/landowners have a good general understanding of the life and role of beavers in our environment. Like managers and general public, most of them did not know that beaver starts building dams when it hears flowing water. Most of the farmers, in comparison to managers and public, also agreed with the statement that beavers reduce areas overgrown with trees.
Compared to managers and general public, there is a significantly higher percentage of farmers (26%) that have negative feelings toward beavers (compared to 7-8% only amongst managers and general public!). However, most farmers still have positive inclination toward beavers (60%).
Amongst farmers, there was highest percentage (compared to previous two questionnaires) of respondents who would not be that happy with seeing beaver, do not think they have a right to live regardless of damage they can cause. Only 50% of farmers think people should tolerate beavers’ activities, and only 40% think beavers should not be killed at all. 67% farmers think beaver causes damage to them, and highest percentage, compared to previous respondent groups, think beavers also cause damage to roads and bridges (23%), beavers are a nuisance (30% farmers agree with this) and that they are more damaging than beneficial.
Landowners and farmers are also significantly more worried about beaver activities than general public.
However, only 23% of questioned farmers reported presence of beaver on their own land.
Most of the respondents answered their land (farmland, forests, or meadows) lies close to the streams or rivers (more than 48% closer than 20 m!).
Most farmers would be willing to abandon tillage on the coastal land along the watercourses in exchange for financial compensation (33%) or for land exchange (30%). 12% farmers would be ready to do it for free.
Like managers and general public, most farmers have not yet taken up most of the suggested mitigation measures to counteract beaver activity. So far, most of them looked up available literature to search for various solutions or complained to the competent authorities. They also tried to protect trees.
However, amongst farmers there is the lowest percentage of those who think they should never remove beaver lodge or dam; only 29% agree with this, and a significantly high (18%) number of farmers even think they are allowed to remove beaver structures whenever they want.
Higher number of farmers regarding other respondents also think population of beavers should decrease, although the majority agrees it should stay of the same size (38%) or higher.
Most of farmers agreed that financial incentives/compensations would be the best solution to improve coexistence with beavers.
Compared to the general public, 26% of farmers have already heard of the LIFE Beaver project (compared to 7-8% of general public), but similar to public, relatively low percentage is interested in more info about beavers (62% only).