Polar Bear-human Conflicts: State of Knowledge and Research Needs

Posted on Aug 13, 2012


Douglas A. CLARK, Floris M. Van BEEST and Ryan K. BROOK

Correspondence: Douglas A. Clark, School of Environment and Sustainability, University of Saskatchewan, 117 Science Place, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, S7N 5C8 Canada. Email: d.clark@usask.ca

Received 5 March 2012 – Accepted 13 August 2012.


Knowledge of the biophysical and social factors influencing conflicts between people and Polar Bears (Ursus maritimus) across the circumpolar north is incomplete and insufficient to guide management. We reviewed the peer-reviewed literature and government reports on Polar Bear-human interactions to assess what is known about their environmental context, relevant bear behavior and life history attributes, and the human dimensions of these events. Polar Bear-human conflicts appear largely driven by the absence of sea ice, which is a normal seasonal occurrence but is increasing in duration due to a warming Arctic climate. Integrated multidisciplinary research is needed to inform Polar Bear conservation efforts and improve human safety. Research priorities should include monitoring spatial and temporal trends of conflicts, understanding variability in incident recording, evaluating mechanisms of climate change effects on Polar Bear-human conflicts, determining risk perception and stakeholder acceptance capacity, and assessing deterrent effectiveness.

Keywords: climate change, endangered species, food-conditioning, habituation, Polar Bear, Ursus maritimus, wildlife-human conflict



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