Social media is often used to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and engage the public, which can change the public's attitudes and behaviors and may be used to benefit conservation. Moreover, widespread social media use provides an alternative data sourcing platform to inexpensively access countless potential respondents. However, social media data have rarely been used in conservation regardless of the potential benefit to conservation science and practice. We administered a questionnaire via the #CougarOrNot Twitter game, a mountain lion-focused social media campaign, during 26 December 2016 through 16 February 2018, to access a large respondent sample (n = 1,481) and assess a subset of social media users’ attitudes toward mountain lions in North America. We then used cumulative link models in an information theoretic approach to gauge the association between respondent level of engagement with #CougarOrNot and other sociodemographic predictors with user attitudes toward mountain lions. Respondent attitudes toward mountain lions were largely positive (83%), with frequent participants in #CougarOrNot, females, pet owners, nonconsumptive recreators, and households with fewer children exhibiting positive attitudes. #CougarOrNot participation had a stronger correlation with respondent attitudes toward mountain lions than commonly used predictors employed in prior studies (i.e. age, education level, livestock ownership). #CougarOrNot may promote positive attitudes toward mountain lions, though additional research is needed to determine the direct effects of playing the game. Stakeholders interested in mountain lion conservation or other conservation topics could be identified via social media networks attached to specific outreach campaigns and possibly mobilized to support conservation actions that aid mountain lions and conservation in general.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was funded by the Summerlee Foundation and the Cougar Network and further supported by the Department of Forestry and Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory at Southern Illinois University. We are grateful for comments and edits provided by M. Nils Peterson (Associate Editor), A. Knipps (Editorial Assistant), and 2 anonymous reviewers. We also thank Auriel MV Fournier for her vital contributions to earlier drafts of this manuscript.
© 2021 The Wildlife Society
- human dimensions
- mountain lion
- Puma concolor
- social media
- United States