Informed management of large carnivores depends on the timely and useful presentation of relevant information. We describe an approach to evaluating carnivore habitat that uses pre-existing qualitative and quantitative information on humans and carnivores to generate coarse-scale maps of habitat suitability, habitat productivity, potential reserves, and areas of potential conflict. We use information pertinent to the contemplated reintroduction of grizzly bears Ursus arctos horribilis into central Idaho to demonstrate our approach. The approach uses measures of human numbers, their estimated distribution, road and trail access, and abundance and quality of bear foods to create standardized indices that are analogues of death and birth rates, respectively; the first subtracted from the second indicates habitat suitability (HS). We calibrate HS to sightings of grizzly bears in two ecosystems in northern Idaho and develop an empirical model from these same sightings based on piece-wise treatment of the variables contained in HS. Depending on whether the empirical model or HS is used, we estimate that there is 14 800 km2 of suitable habitat in two blocks or 37 100 km2 in one block in central Idaho, respectively. Both approaches show suitable habitat in the current Evaluation Area and in an area of southeastern Idaho centered on the Palisades Reservoir. Areas of highly productive habitat are concentrated in northern and western Idaho and in the Palisades area. Future conflicts between humans and bears are most likely to occur on the western and northern margins of suitable habitat in central Idaho, rather than to the east, where opposition to reintroduction of grizzly bears is currently strongest.
Additional publication details
Defining landscapes suitable for restoration of grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) in Idaho