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Behaviour of brown bears (Ursus arctos) when repeatedly approached by humans on foot

By Nina Emilie Stenset

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Knowledge about encounters between humans and wildlife is important for conservation, management and policymaking, as well as for reducing conflict and negative interactions. There is general concern that an increased number of encounters might reduce wildlife flight responses. I investigated the responses of GPS-collared brown bears (Ursus arctos) in southcentral Sweden when repeatedly encountering humans on foot. Brown bears are generally wary of humans, and I therefore hypothesized that their behavioural response would not change with the number of experimental encounters. Bears were approached by observers 2 – 3 times per week for 2 – 4 weeks. The observers simulated recreational forest users during the approach and passed the bear’s initial location on an average distance of 29 m. A total of 11 solitary females (7 subadults and 4 adults) and 14 solitary males (6 subadults and 8 adults) were subject to an average of 6.6 approaches (SD = 1.19). I analysed flight response as distance between bear and observer when bear flight initiation (FID) occurred, the distance fled and time spent active after disturbance, combined with measurements of horizontal cover at the bear’s initial location. Data was analysed using generalized linear mixed-effect models with bear individual as random effect. No significant relationships were found between the number of approaches conducted on an individual and flight response. FID could best be explained by horizontal cover, age of the bear, activity and the interaction between age and activity. No significant relationships were found for flight distance nor duration. My findings support the hypothesis that brown bears are wary of people and does not alter their flight responses when repeatedly disturbed by humans on foot. 


Katie Carroll

Date 2015
Pages 36
Publisher Norwegian University of Life Sciences
Department Department of Ecology and Natural Resource Management
Degree Master of Science
Language English
University Norwegian University of Life Sciences
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal roles
  3. Animals in culture
  4. Animal welfare
  5. Bears
  6. Conservation
  7. human-animal conflict
  8. Human-animal interactions
  9. human-wildlife interactions
  10. Mammals
  11. Nature
  12. Physical environment
  13. Wild animals
  14. wildlife