We used response to a mail survey (n = 848) to evaluate the extent and severity of depredation by black bears (Ursus americanus) on agricultural commodities in Massachusetts and to assess producers' attitudes toward and tolerance of bear depredation. Damage abatement techniques were ranked for effectiveness by producers of corn, bees and honey, and livestock and dairy products. Results showed differences in perception of effects of bear depredation among commodity groups. Producers of corn and livestock and dairy products considered bear damage to be low to moderate in severity whereas beekeepers thought their losses were substantial or severe. Most estimates of economic loss were <$1,000 per year. Respondents considered bears to be an inconvenience, but thought they should remain a part of our natural heritage. There was no significant relationship between producers' experience with or economic dependence on their product and their attitude toward bears or their tolerance of bear damage. We conclude that there is need for effective education programs for agricultural producers, strengthened working relationships between producers and state fish and wildlife agencies, incorporation of producers' suggestions into management decisions, and investment in effective, economical, and long-term solutions to bear depredations for each affected commodity group.
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Black bear depredation on agricultural commodities in Massachusetts