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Changing Attitudes toward California's Cougars

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The management of California's cougar population has been an ongoing focus of public debate. Over the course of this century, this predator's legal status has changed several times, and in 1990 voters approved the California Wilderness Protection Act, which outlawed the sport hunting of cougars. Since that time, rising rates of human-cougar interactions have generated extensive media coverage of human-cougar conflicts and management policies, scientific controversies about the ecology of the cougar population, and political action to reinstate sport hunting. This paper considers one major institution which both shapes and reflects attitudes toward wildlife and related management issues: the print media. Through a content analysis of cougar-related coverage appearing in the Los Angeles Times, we document how attitudes toward cougars shifted between 1985 and 1995 as reflected in the tenor of coverage, specific attitudes expressed, and the terminology used to describe cougars. We conclude that such analysis of public discourse around wildlife management issues is a useful method of tracking broad shifts both in public attitudes toward wildlife and in the positions on wildlife issues of major institutions which influence those attitudes.

Affiliations: 1: UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA; 2: MOUNTAINS RECREATION AND CONSERVATION AUTHORITY, LOS ANGELES

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/content/journals/10.1163/156853097x00015
1997-01-01
2016-12-09

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