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Human-Bear Interactions Among Black Bears in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, and Polar Bears on Alaska's North Slope

By Wesley G. Larson

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Abstract

Human-bear interactions are an important consideration of bear biology, as interactions can lead to destruction of property as well as injury or death for both human and bear. Successful analysis of why these interactions occur can lead to appropriate preventative measures and mitigation of further conflict. Bryce Canyon National Park (BRCA) is comprised of relatively poor bear habitat, but a black bear population exists on the Paunsaugunt Plateau, on which the park occupies the eastern edge. Park managers expressed interest in learning more about bear movements and, specifically, bear use of anthropogenic features following a number of human-bear incidents located at backcountry campsites within park boundaries. By analyzing data from GPS radio-collared bears, trail cameras, existing literature, park incident reports and in-depth campsite assessments, we were able to show how bears are using both natural and anthropogenic features on the Bryce landscape. Campsites were assessed for bear habitat, displacement and encounter potential in order to establish an overall human-bear conflict potential. AIC model selection and resource selection functions using GPS collar data showed that bears selected for some anthropogenic features (campsites, springs), while actively avoiding others (trails, roads). Trail camera data, existing literature and park incident reports all pointed toward use of trails. We then considered all data sources used in the analysis and compiled rankings of human-bear conflict potential for each of the backcountry campsites within BRCA, and submitted a detailed report of findings, conclusions and recommendations to NPS personnel. Second, we investigated human-bear interactions at polar bear dens sites on Alaska's North Slope. As parturient female polar bears in the Southern Beaufort Sea subpopulation increasingly construct maternal dens on coastal land features rather than sea ice, they become more likely to interact with industry and other human activity. We wanted to understand what levels of human interaction could lead to disturbance of denning polar bears, and what types of responses were being exhibited by bears following those interactions. We subdivided potential disturbance stimuli into groups based on their size, motion and sound and the used AIC model selection techniques and multinomial logistic regression to analyze records of human-bear interactions at den sites ranging from 1975 through the present day. We found significant probabilities of varying levels of bear disturbance response among a number of stimuli and intensities. However, denning bear families were overall more tolerant of human activity near den sites than expected. Den abandonments were rare, and we documented no cases of reproductive failure following a disturbance event. We hope that our results from the analysis can be used to further enhance management of industry when operating in polar bear denning habitat.

Submitter

Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2017
Pages 98
Department Department of Plant and Wildlife Sciences
Degree Master of Science
URL https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/etd/6649/
Language English
University Brigham Young University
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Tags
  1. Alaska
  2. Animal roles
  3. Bears
  4. human-animal conflict
  5. Human-animal interactions
  6. open access
  7. Wild animals
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  1. open access