The discourses of incidents: Cougars on Mt. Elden and in Sabino Canyon, Arizona

Policy Sciences
By:  and 



Incidents are relatively short periods of intensified discourse that arise from public responses to symbolically important actions by public officials, and an important part of the conflict that increasingly surrounds state wildlife management in the West. In an effort to better understand incidents as a facet of this conflict, we analyzed the discourses of two incidents in Arizona that were precipitated by the intended removal of cougars by managers in response to public safety concerns. We used newspaper content, 1999–2007, to elucidate seminal patterns of public discourses and discourse coalitions as well as differences in discursive focus between incident periods and background periods. Cougars were mentioned in newspaper articles 13–33 times more often during incidents compared with background periods. State wildlife agency commissioners and hunters were part of a discourse coalition that advocated killing cougars to solve problems, blamed cougars and those who promoted the animals’ intrinsic value and sought to retain power to define and solve cougar-related problems. Personnel from affected state and federal agencies expressed a similar discourse. Environmentalists, animal protection activists, and some elected officials were of a coalition that defined “the problem” primarily in terms of people’s behaviors, including behaviors associated with current institutional arrangements. This discourse advocated decentralizing power over cougar management. The discourses reflected different preferences for the allocations of power and use of lethal versus non-lethal methods, which aligned with apparent core beliefs and participants’ enfranchisement or disenfranchisement by current state-level management power arrangements.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title The discourses of incidents: Cougars on Mt. Elden and in Sabino Canyon, Arizona
Series title Policy Sciences
DOI 10.1007/s11077-012-9158-6
Volume 45
Issue 4
Year Published 2012
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Southwest Biological Science Center
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Policy Sciences
Country United States
State Arizona
Other Geospatial Mt. Elden;Sabino Canyon
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