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Planning for coexistence : assessing predictors of human-carnivore conflict on Southern Vancouver Island van Bommel, Joanna Klees


The urban-wildland interface is growing as human development expands, potentially increasing human-wildlife conflict. Conflicts include animals accessing garbage, damaging agricultural crops, or depredating livestock. For mammalian carnivores this often leads to lethal mitigation. Mortality from conflict represents a major threat to carnivores who miscalculate the risk of human-dominated areas. By contrast, carnivores that adapt to these novel anthropogenic environments may facilitate human-wildlife coexistence. Human-carnivore conflict is an increasing issue on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, due to rapidly expanding development and high concentrations of black bears (Ursus americanus) and cougars (Puma concolor). To reduce these conflicts and promote coexistence, it is critical to target proactive mitigations using reliable evidence to distinguish where conflict is probable from where carnivores are adapting to coexist. I modelled relative conflict probability using seven years of reported conflicts and GIS data to investigate which anthropogenic and environmental predictors best explained the spatial and temporal distribution of conflict in Victoria’s Capital Regional District. I found that the probability of conflict for both species increased along the urban-wildland interface, where human disturbance adjoined natural habitat. Black bear conflict also increased in rural areas in autumn before winter denning. I subsequently used a camera trap survey to see when and where bears were active across a gradient of human disturbance and compared bear habitat use to the previously estimated probabilities of conflict. For much of the year, bears used areas of low to medium conflict, such as forests near urban areas, avoided areas of higher human density, and were more nocturnal in urban and rural areas compared to wild. However, in autumn, bears were more active in areas of high conflict probability, specifically rural lands with ripe crops. This suggests that bear behaviour may allow for coexistence in most seasons by spatially and temporally avoiding humans, except in autumn when hyperphagia and peak anthropogenic crop availability increase the risk of human-bear conflict. Overall, I recommend proactive conflict mitigation to secure anthropogenic attractants against multiple carnivore species, and a particular focus on mitigations during seasonal peaks in attractive human food resources.

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