From the field: Brown bear habituation to people - Safety, risks, and benefits

Wildlife Society Bulletin
By: , and 



Recently, brown bear (Ursus arctos) viewing has increased in coastal Alaska and British Columbia, as well as in interior areas such as Yellowstone National Park. Viewing is most often being done under conditions that offer acceptable safety to both people and bears. We analyze and comment on the underlying processes that lead brown bears to tolerate people at close range. Although habituation is an important process influencing the distance at which bears tolerate people, other variables also modify levels of bear-to-human tolerance. Because bears may react internally with energetic costs before showing an overt reaction to humans, we propose a new term, the Overt Reaction Distance, to emphasize that what we observe is the external reaction of a bear. In this paper we conceptually analyze bear viewing in terms of benefits and risks to people and bears. We conclude that managers and policy-makers must develop site-specific plans that identify the extent to which bear-to-human habituation and tolerance will be permitted. The proposed management needs scientific underpinning. It is our belief that bear viewing, where appropriate, may promote conservation of bear populations, habitats, and ecosystems as it instills respect and concern in those who participate.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title From the field: Brown bear habituation to people - Safety, risks, and benefits
Series title Wildlife Society Bulletin
Volume 33
Issue 1
Year Published 2005
Language English
Publisher Wildlife Society
Publisher location Washington
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center, Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center
Description 12 p.
First page 362
Last page 373
Country Canada, United States
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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