Date of Award:

12-2009

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Wildland Resources

Advisor/Chair:

John A. Shivik

Abstract

Conflicts between humans and black bears (Ursus americanus) jeopardize the safety of both humans and bears, especially when bears become food-conditioned to anthropogenic food sources in areas such as campgrounds. Interest in using non-lethal techniques, such as aversive conditioning, to manage such conflicts is growing. I conducted a captive experiment at The Wildlife Science Center in Minnesota and two field experiments in the La Sal Mountains, Utah, to investigate the effects of taste aversion conditioning using thiabendazole (TBZ) with a novel flavor cue and food removal on black bear food consumption and visitation to human food sources. In 2007, I conducted food trials with 6 captive black bears (3 control, 3 treatment). Controls received 1 kg baked goods scented with a peppermint-canola oil mixture and treatments received 1 kg baked goods also scented with a peppermint-canola oil mixture but mixed with 10-20 g TBZ. In the 2007 field experiment, I baited 24 field sites with 300 g of baked goods during a baseline phase for approximately 3 weeks. Half of these sites were then treated with 10 g of TBZ and camphor during a treatment phase for 4 weeks. In 2008, I baited 22 sites with 300 g of baked goods during a baseline phase for approximately 4 weeks. I then removed food and discontinued baiting at half of the sites for 4 weeks. Infrared cameras and barbed-wire hair snags were established at field sites to document bear visitation. I did not establish taste aversion in treated bears in captivity and bears fully consumed food in the majority of trials. Treating food supplies with 10 g TBZ and camphor flavor did not significantly reduce bear visitation (P = 0.615) or food consumption at field sites (P = 0.58). However, I observed a significant reduction in bear activity at sites where food was removed (P = 0.006). Potential reasons for my failure to reduce bear visitation using thiabendazole include insufficient conditioning, reluctance of bears to desist in investigating sites that previously contained untreated food, and masking of a treatment effect due to continued encounters of sites by new individuals.

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