Quantifying the Spatial Ecology of Human-Bear Conflict in a Wildland-Urban Landscape

Posted on Jul 7, 2014


Mary W. von der PORTEN, Andrew B. COOPER, Nicola A. BICKERTON, and Anne K. SALOMON

Correspondence:  Anne K. Salomon, School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, British Columbia, V5A 1S6, Canada. Email: anne.salomon@sfu.ca

Received 30 January 2014 – Accepted 7 July 2014


Human-carnivore conflict poses a serious conservation challenge worldwide. While non-lethal management strategies are increasingly sought, identifying effective management and conservation tools demands an understanding of the interplay among multiple drivers of conflict and the behavioral ecology of the species in question. We quantified the spatial patterns of human-Black Bear (Ursus americanus) conflict in Whistler, Canada using utilization distributions of incidents grouped by bear reproductive class, gender, and season. We examined the strength of evidence for the effects of landscape and habitat covariates associated with conflict at a local scale (30m2) using a resource utilization function and model selection approach. Results indicate that spatial patterns of conflict differed among bear reproductive classes and genders, and between seasons, reflecting bear ecology and behaviour. However, landscape attributes were unable to predict the relative probability of conflict. This demonstrates that bear behaviour is flexible such that individual animals will forage opportunistically to gain food rewards around human activity, and that the spatial patterns of conflict at a local scale may be a result of attractant availability and learned behaviour rather than habitat quality. Our study suggests that wildland-urban landscapes can provide relatively unconstrained access to bears, and thus conflict with humans. Furthermore, landscape attributes are unable to predict the location of conflict at the local scale. Therefore, the manipulation of landscape features may not prevent or reduce conflict within the wildland-urban interface. Rather, multiple non-lethal measures, fine scale attractant reduction, and highly responsive adaptive management are required to reduce human-bear conflict.

Key Words: Black Bear, Carnivore Management, Human-Wildlife Conflict, Spatial Model, Ursus americanus, Wildlife-Urban Interface.


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