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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Factors affecting spatial and temporal variation in human-bear interactions Sunter, Emily Judith


Past research in human-carnivore coexistence has largely focused on conflict interactions, leaving a significant knowledge gap in our understanding of coexistence beyond conflict. I addressed this gap by analyzing the spatial and temporal distribution of both incidents (i.e., conflict; physical attacks, property damage, bear consumption of human food) and sightings (i.e., animal, property, and person remain unharmed). I examined 2 years of human-bear interaction records from Alberta’s Bow Valley, a landscape where black bears (Ursus americanus) and grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) co-occur with people within vital large carnivore habitat. I used generalized linear models to examine patterns of interaction distribution across bear seasons and for each species. The majority of interactions were sightings of black bears reported during summer. Bear activity, primary productivity, and distance to roads and trails were the strongest predictors of interactions overall. Incident interactions were best explained by human presence while sightings models were more complex. In general, I found greater differences between species than between sightings and incidents, but sightings increased the power of predictive models over incidents alone. These results indicate the potential use of incorporating sightings reports with incidents for a broader understanding human-bear coexistence and can aid wildlife managers in further developing regulations to mitigate conflict and ensure viable bear populations. Key recommendations to improve human-bear coexistence in the Bow Valley include increasing the use of sightings reports in research and management decisions, quantifying the effect of management removals on black bear population dynamics, evaluating the human dimensions of human-bear interactions, and limiting human use where it overlaps with high-quality or high-activity bear habitat.

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