Black bear movement and food conditioning in an exurban landscape

Journal of Wildlife Management
By: , and 

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Abstract

Conflicts between humans and wildlife have become increasingly important challenges for resource managers along the urban‐wildland interface. Food conditioning (i.e., reliance by an animal on anthropogenic foods) of American black bears (Ursus americanus ) is related to conflict behavior (i.e., being bold or aggressive toward humans, consuming human food or garbage, causing property damage) and often occurs in communities adjacent to Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GRSM or Park), USA. The goal of our study was to evaluate black bear space use in GRSM and in exurban areas on surrounding private lands and to identify factors associated with food conditioning and conflict behavior. We radio‐collared 53 bears (29 males, 24 females) from 2015 to 2017 to compare space use characteristics and used carbon isotopic signatures (δ13C) from bear hair to assess food conditioning. We then performed an integrated step selection function (iSSF) analysis to characterize and compare movement and resource use as related to food conditioning. Based on the stable isotope analyses, 24 bears were classified as food conditioned (FC; 16 males and 8 females) and 37 were not food conditioned (NFC; 14 males and 23 females). Annual 95% kernel density estimate (KDE) home ranges and 50% KDE core area estimates of female and male bears did not differ by level of food conditioning (i.e., mean δ13C), but 95% and 50% home ranges of FC females were smaller than NFC females when data from 2015, a year of food scarcity and abnormally large home ranges, were excluded. The mean proportion of exurban development (e.g., roads, buildings, openings) within 95% KDE and 50% KDE home ranges of females increased with mean δ13C (i.e., greater food conditioning). The iSSF models indicated that FC bears were more likely to use forest openings associated with higher levels of development than NFC bears. We used those models to demonstrate how landscape modifications can reduce bear use of exurban areas, particularly for NFC bears. Our stable isotope, movement, and resource use data indicate that conflict behaviors displayed by many bears within GRSM were learned in areas outside Park boundaries. © 2020 The Wildlife Society.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Black bear movement and food conditioning in an exurban landscape
Series title Journal of Wildlife Management
DOI 10.1002/jwmg.21870
Volume 84
Issue 6
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center
Description 13 p.
First page 1038
Last page 1050
Country United States
State Tennessee, North Carolina
Other Geospatial Great Smoky Mountains National Park
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