Assessing Texan Attitudes Regarding Mountain Lions
This study provides an examination of the public’s knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about mountain lion ecology, management, and regulations in Texas, attempting to develop a comprehensive understanding of public perceptions of mountain lions to promote public awareness and education in the state.
In general, the respondents studied in this research ranked their knowledge of wildlife in general as average, although their knowledge of mountain lions, specifically, fell slightly below average. The majority consider mountain lions in Texas to be “rare but not endangered” and did not know that they are a “non-game” species. In fact, most wrongly believe that mountain lions are afforded some sort of legal protection and that mountain lions consume rodents, rabbits, sheep, and goats.
In other findings, females ranked their overall knowledge of wildlife as below average, compared with males who ranked themselves as average. Females also tended to overestimate mountain lion weight more frequently than males. Hispanics had lower mean knowledge scores than Caucasian respondents, but believed that mountain lions were protected by the state, where Caucasians were more likely to consider them as non-game animals. Finally, those with less education tended to be more negative and utilitarian about their knowledge and views of wildlife than those with a high school diploma or more education.
Most respondents want to see biologists ensure a health population of mountain lions in Texas. A majority think that mountain lions are essential to nature and that prey populations are balanced by predators. Most consider the conservation of habitat to be more important than new housing and urban developments, but are neutral on balancing the priorities of making a living from farming/ranching and conservation of habitat.
In summary, the majority of respondents have positive attitudes and beliefs toward mountain lions, although mean belief scores were the least positive for rural participants, female Hispanics, and individuals over the age of 65. Mean attitude scores were the least positive for male Caucasians and those over 65. Significant differences were also found between rural and urban respondents, and female Caucasians and Hispanics suggesting that gender and ethnicity are interrelated regarding beliefs and attitudes concerning mountain lions.