What to do about bear/human conflict hot-spots found in new study?


Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 26 October 2018

BEARS

How to Get Along with Bears

A black bear playbook: Conservationists predict bear/human conflict hot-spots in new study,
Wildlife Conservation Society, October 26, 2018.

MAIN POINTS

"...uses long term data on bear mortality to map high-probability hot-spots for human-bear conflicts."

"...to understand the impact of an increasing human footprint on American black bears at the wildland-urban interface."

Bear Mortality
"...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 mortality 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."

Score

382 bear deaths,    16 per year

Road Kill #1            10 per year

Urban Kill #2            8 per year

Administrative, Urban, and Bear Realities
"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."

 

Bottom Line

Thoughts on the Human/Urban Bear Interface

The Urban Problem

Bears Focus on Food
Bears will go to where they smell the food. How far they will go to get it depends on how hungry they are, mitigated by their previous knowledge & experience. Bears quickly understand that bear-proof garbage cans, and cars that never hold food, are not worth bothering.

If the basic food sources us humans allow the bears to access is made inaccessible or removed, (mostly consisting of our garbage), the bears will not see us or our urban areas as a resource, and avoid contact. As it is now, with the vast numbers of urban garbage cans accessible to bears in the Tahoe Basin, the bears are, and will continue to see humans, our cars, and our urban areas as an excellen source of easy food, and the bears will make great efforts, "take pains," to maintain access to them. But, bears are not stupid...

We, being the smarter humans, must set up the environment to train the bears that there are no rewards from messing around in urban areas. That's easy with the garbage, the open garbage that draws bears into urban areas, and into being labelled as dangerous: seal up all the trash. But it's a lot harder to mitigate the #1 cause of death, road kill.

The Road Kill Problem

If biologists could actually figure out, "bear crossings," which is highly unlikely, knowing how bears follow their own schedules while making their own ways across the terrain, then those areas could be designated with road-warning signs.

Bears work the local resources as they work their way across their territory: They work up a river valley, digging the grubs & roots, demolishing the berries, chasing the rabbits, and eating the grasses until they cross out, over to the next valley in their territory. They will shift plans when they smell another bear. Issues arise that must be checked out, or avoided. When and where they cross the road is going to be part on each year's weather trajectory, the nuances of plant & insect growth, and just how the bear's year is working out... and bears are very agile in the terrain.

Bear Zones
Bear zone signs might be a, "thing," to raise mountain driver's bear-awareness by designating, "bear crossing zones," if specific areas where bears typically cross the road can be identified. I guess we could figure out how the 382 road killed bear locations relate to bear territories.

High Sierra is a Bear Zone
I've got to figure all the main trans-Sierra highways each split dozens of bear's territories as they make their way across the flanks & over the crest, providing a hell of a lot of potential, "bear crossing zones!"

 

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