Human Dimensions of Wildlife Unit

Mule deer in water
hunter and dog
CDFW Booth
Townhall Meeting

What are Human-Dimensions?

Wildlife issues are complex. While human behavior may contribute to conflict with wildlife, people are also key to meaningful conservation and management actions. Such conservation efforts require a comprehensive understanding not only of ecology and wildlife biology, but also of policy, socioeconomic factors, cultural and social values, and other dimensions of human behavior.

The Human-Dimensions of Wildlife Conservation (HD) Unit is a collaborative program conducting interdisciplinary research to better manage California’s natural resources within the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). HD research investigates the role that people play in wildlife management and conservation, actions and decision-making, using comprehensive social and environmental sciences.

To learn more about the HD Unit's role with CDFW, click on the tabs below:

Role of Human-Dimensions Research

The factors that shape how human-wildlife interactions may be perceived, and whether they escalate to conflict, are complex. Some people enjoy the presence of wildlife and may tolerate regular interactions. Other people may have minimal interaction, but do not tolerate even the presence of wildlife. This variation in tolerance is often poorly understood.

Research and monitoring of the different facets of human-wildlife conflict, which may include wildlife health, human dimensions, public safety, and reporting trends, are important. Of note, is the strong seasonal pattern of most human-wildlife conflicts. For more information on how to address unwanted human-wildlife interactions, visit the CDFW Human-Wildlife Conflict Program page.

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Recruit. Retain. Reactivate.

Through the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, hunters provide some of the strongest support for wildlife conservation projects. In recent decades, California and the rest of the nation has seen a decline in the number of hunters. The Recruit. Retain. Reactivate (R3) program is a collaborative effort between CDFW and diverse partners to help address this decline. The HD Unit helps to provide the social science tools to examine trends and patterns across a wide range of consumptive outdoor recreational activities: hunting, fishing, foraging, shooting sports.

Wildlife Viewing & Other Activities

Citizen Science

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Climate Change

The Drought Response Implementation Plan (DRIP) was created in 2015 in response to extreme drought conditions in California and how it may impact human-wildlife interactions. Between September 1, 2015, and June 30, 2017, every report about human-wildlife interactions received by CDFW staff was recorded and documented. Approximately 30,763 reports were documented and categorized into one of six categories: public safety, perceived public safety, property damage, animal welfare, general nuisance, and sighting. The HD Unit is using this data to examine trends in reporting of human-wildlife interactions during drought. Since 2017, an online Wildlife Incident Reporting System (WIR) has replaced DRIP protocol for documenting and compiling conflict reports.

Social & Cultural Change

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Wildlife Rehabilation

Bar graph showing responses to question about what are the most important limitations and challenges for rehab communication and outreach

California is fortunate to have a diverse community of passionate wildlife rehabilitation workers and volunteers that care for injured, sick, and orphaned wildlife. Wildlife rehabilitation centers are permitted through CDFW's Wildlife Welfare and Rehabilitation Program. Human dimensions research can help wildlife rehabilitation efforts by identifying what information and resources rehab volunteers need to care for wildlife.


In winter 2019, the HD Unit distributed a survey at an annual meeting of wildlife rehabilitation centers. One question on the survey was about some of the challenges and limitations rehabilitation centers have for engaging in communication and outreach activities. The biggest limitations to communication and outreach were a lack of time and money.

Bar graph showing top choices for new rehab outreach and information

Another question asked wildlife rehabilitation centers about what sort of new information sources they would find most useful. There was a lot of variation in what centers choose as their top ranked choice. The most commonly selected resource was information to help the public learn how to tell if an animal needs help or assistance. This information will help the HD Unit work with different people in the wildlife rehabilitation community to develop new communication and outreach materials that meet the top needs and priorities.

Wildlife Watch

Wildlife Watch Logo

Wildlife Watch is a multi-agency partnership program that provides support and training to local governments and community groups to help them design and implement their own nuisance wildlife action plans. Currently, 16 cities in southern California (serving approximately 3.8 million residents) have a Wildlife Watch program.

Program Goal

The Wildlife Watch program intends to reduce human-wildlife conflicts in California’s urban environments by empowering local governments and community groups to proactively address, prevent and manage nuisance wildlife issues in their own neighborhoods. Wildlife Watch trains residents how to prevent conflict with wildlife in their neighborhoods. This includes removing attractants (for example, securing trash containers) and preventing excluding wildlife from inappropriate denning sites (such as under porches or in attics).

Conservation Coaching

Wildlife Watch requires focused training called “conservation coaching” to both local agencies and community groups. Conservation coaching guides participants through understanding animal behavior, human values and perception, ecology, and conservation principles as it applies to human-wildlife conflicts. Conservation coaches develop their skills through TEAM - Trust, Encouragement, Accountability, and Modeling (behaviors and values to others). There are many ways to participate in Wildlife Watch, such as starting a new program in your community, joining an existing program, or becoming a volunteer.

See Wildlife Watch in Action!