Overseeing the continued recovery, dispersal and management of large carnivore populations while simultaneously considering human viability and welfare requires delicately balancing local concerns for rural communities' livelihood prospects and property vulnerability with international concerns for saving threatened species. In this article, we propose an integrated analytical perspective to elucidate how competing interests and power relationships influence the governance and management of contested wildlife resources. However, simply identifying these patterns is not enough. It is also imperative that the interrelationships between broader biophysical, social, political, economic, and cultural contexts and histories be explored in order to describe, analyze and better understand how and why individual and collective responses vary. In doing this, we drew from findings from a variety of social science disciplines (environmental communication, environmental psychology, human ecology, human geography, political science, public administration and social anthropology) and, here, present how social science approaches can enhance understanding of the different layers and contexts of contested natural resource management. Highlighting the individual, socio-cultural, political and institutional dimensions, the article concludes by identifying five recurrent concepts that must be understood and consciously applied to large carnivore governance and management: 1) establishment of trust between people and groups interacting on the subject; 2) fair representation of stakeholder interests; 3) acknowledgement of the different knowledge-spheres, including those based on personal experiences, culture and tradition, and science; 4) communication, based on dialogue about pluralistic perspectives, to collectively formulate and agree on set goals; and 5) leadership emphasising empowerment.