There is a long history of conflict in the western United States between humans and grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) involving agricultural attractants. However, little is known about the spatial dimensions of this conflict and the relative importance of different attractants. This study was undertaken to better understand the spatial and functional components of conflict between humans and grizzly bears on privately owned agricultural lands in Montana. Our investigations focused on spatial associations of rivers and creeks, livestock pastures, boneyards (livestock carcass dump sites), beehives, and grizzly bear habitat with reported human-grizzly bear conflicts during 1986-2001. We based our analysis on a survey of 61 of 64 livestock producers in our study in the Rocky Mountain East Front, Montana. With the assistance of livestock and honey producers, we mapped the locations of cattle and sheep pastures, boneyards, and beehives. We used density surface mapping to identify seasonal clusters of conflicts that we term conflict hotspots. Hotspots accounted for 75% of all conflicts and encompassed approximately 8% of the study area. We also differentiated chronic (4 or more years of conflicts) from non-chronic hotspots (fewer than 4 years of conflict). The 10 chronic hotpots accounted for 58% of all conflicts. Based on Monte Carlo simulations, we found that conflict locations were most strongly associated with rivers and creeks followed by sheep lambing areas and fall sheep pastures. Conflicts also were associated with cattle calving areas, spring cow-calf pastures, summer and fall cattle pastures, and boneyards. The Monte Carlo simulations indicated associations between conflict locations and unprotected beehives at specific analysis scales. Protected (fenced) beehives were less likely to experience conflicts than unprotected beehives. Conflicts occurred at a greater rate in riparian and wetland vegetation than would be expected. The majority of conflicts occurred in a small portion of the study area, where concentrations of attractants existed that overlapped with bear habitat. These hotspots should be the target of management and conservation efforts that focus on removing or protecting attractants using non-lethal techniques.
Additional publication details
Natural landscape features, human-related attractants, and conflict hotspots: A spatial analysis of human-grizzly bear conflicts