Conservationists predict bear/human conflict hot-spots in new study

October 26, 2018, Wildlife Conservation Society
A news study can help wildlife managers mitigate conflict as bears expand their ranges Credit: Jon Beckmann/WCS

A new study by WCS, American Museum of Natural History, and other partners uses long term data on bear mortality to map high-probability hot-spots for human-bear conflicts. The authors say this is a critical tool for wildlife managers to reduce mortality of bears as they recolonize their former range in the Great Basin and in other parts of the country.

The study, which appears in the latest issue of Global Ecology and Conservation, represents the latest information from the first and longest running effort to understand the impact of an increasing human footprint on American black bears at the wildland-urban interface.

The authors looked at expanding bear populations in the Lake Tahoe Basin and Western Great Basin Desert in Nevada, examining 382 bear deaths between 1997 and 2013. They found that the largest causes of were vehicle collisions (160) and management removal of bears (132) due to animals breaking into people's homes and/or causing property damage, or other threats to human safety.

The authors say that by understanding the causes and consequences of mortality on bears using long-term data, will be able to reduce bear deaths in urban interface areas where bears could otherwise be killed more frequently.

Said the study's co-author Jon Beckmann, Science Director of WCS's Rocky Mountain West Program: "Ultimately the goal of conservation is to have more individuals of species like bears and other carnivores on landscapes like we have accomplished in the Great Basin, but we then have to understand how to limit their mortality that results from conflicts with humans."

Lead author Rae Wynn-Grant from the Museum's Center for Biodiversity and Conservation suggests "This approach to understanding local drivers of bear mortality can be replicated in other areas where human influence varies across the landscape. We were surprised to find subtle indicators of human activity were important drivers of bear mortality risk, an important finding for wildlife recovery efforts."

WCS and Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) currently use this information to try and reduce mortality of bears in areas where bears already occur, and to predict hot-spots of human-bear conflict as they currently recolonize their historical range in the state of Nevada. In the Great Basin, bears are returning after an absence of 80-plus years due to recovering habitats and WCS/NDOW conservation efforts such as the Bear Aware Campaign, changing regulations, and policies prohibiting the feeding of wildlife along with ordinances requiring bear-proof dumpsters in many regions of western Nevada. These efforts have led to the bear population expanding in number and geography over the past several years, resulting in bears showing up in areas of central and eastern Nevada.

The authors say that these conservation successes can be a model for other places, including in New York and New Jersey, and areas throughout the U.S. that are dealing with increasing human-bear conflicts at the wildland-urban interface. In addition, the authors say there are lessons for other regions of the globe where large carnivores occur in these wildland-urban interface areas such as lions at the of Nairobi, Kenya.

Explore further: Study: urban black bears 'live fast, die young'

More information: Rae Wynn-Grant et al, Risky business: Modeling mortality risk near the urban-wildland interface for a large carnivore, Global Ecology and Conservation (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.gecco.2018.e00443

Related Stories

Study: urban black bears 'live fast, die young'

September 30, 2008

Black bears that live around urban areas weigh more, get pregnant at a younger age, and are more likely to die violent deaths, according to a study by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

Ancient extinct cave bear DNA found in modern bears

August 29, 2018

An international team of researchers has found evidence of extinct cave bear DNA in modern bears. In their paper published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, the group describes their genetic analysis of modern brown ...

Black bears: Here, gone, and back again

March 29, 2013

A new study from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) has pieced together the last 150 years of history for one of the state's most interesting denizens: the black bear.

Factors affecting the success of grizzly bear translocations

January 10, 2018

The number of grizzly bear translocations has increased in recent years to protect the bears and reduce conflicts with humans. In a recent Journal of Wildlife Management analysis of translocations in Alberta, Canada, researchers ...

Recommended for you

EPA adviser is promoting harmful ideas, scientists say

March 22, 2019

The Trump administration's reliance on industry-funded environmental specialists is again coming under fire, this time by researchers who say that Louis Anthony "Tony" Cox Jr., who leads a key Environmental Protection Agency ...

Coffee-based colloids for direct solar absorption

March 22, 2019

Solar energy is one of the most promising resources to help reduce fossil fuel consumption and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to power a sustainable future. Devices presently in use to convert solar energy into thermal ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.