Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Barely educated humans impact bear behavior

Date: February 6, 2017
Source: University of British Columbia Okanagan campus

The American black bear can rest easier thanks to conservation research conducted at UBC's Okanagan campus. A recent study indicates that while urban sprawl results in more human-bear interactions, human education can hinder negative encounters.

"Unless steps are taken to reduce human-bear interactions, we will see an increase in bears that are habituated to humans, leading to property damage, human injuries and more dead bears," says Lael Parrott, professor of Biology and Earth and Environmental Sciences at UBCOkanagan.

"These situations are unacceptable and sustainable solutions are needed. One approach is to implement education programs that teach humans how to keep their properties attractant-free and how to behave during a bear encounter."

Parrott, along with UBC mathematics Associate Professor Rebecca Tyson and student research assistants, developed a computer model to simulate the effectiveness of human-bear awareness education about bear movement and foraging behaviour in an urban setting. The program, based on field data, made it possible to run hundreds of scenarios and investigate the outcomes and best practices.,In the model, bear awareness education included training about proper garbage disposal and deterrent use.

The researchers found that the biggest contributor to bear status was urban land use. A one per cent increase in urbanization resulted in a 91 per cent increase in human-bear conflict. The model also suggests that education targeting the border areas between the residential community and bear habitats will have the biggest impact on limiting bear conflict.

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