Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Natural Resources

Department name when degree awarded

Wildlife Science

Committee Chair(s)

Barrie K. Gilbert


Barrie K. Gilbert


Richard Schreyer


Fred Lindzey


Fred Knowlton


Jim Gessamen


The objective of this study was to quantitatively document interactions between black bears and backcountry visitors, and to identify the factors affecting those encounters. Fine hundred and ninety-two interactions were observed. The most common responses of visitors to bears were to watch, walk toward, and talk to others and/or point at the bear. Bears responded to humans largely by walking away, watching, traveling around, walking toward, and running away from people.

Each behavior for both species was categorized into one of four response classes: (1) fear/avoidance, (2) neutrality, (3) approach, or (4) aggression. Over 65 percent of visitor responses were neutral. People were least likely to react to bears with fear/avoidance behavior. Bears also were most likely to be neutral. Of particular interest is the low occurrence of aggression shown by bears. Less than

two percent of all responses fell into this category, most of which were exhibited by two animals. We witnessed no interactions which resulted in injury or even contact between visitors and bears. When ursid aggression did occur, bears appeared to be more aggressive in June, with younger visitors, and at close distances. Both human aggression and fear were correlated with short interactions.

Bear behavior was greatly altered by possession of camper foods. Bears were more neutral and walked toward people less after they had begun to eat. They also showed much less fear of visitors at this time. Other correlations of both human and ursid behavior with biotic and abiotic variables ( temporal, spatial, environmental, etc.) are presented and discussed. Recommendations for improved management are also suggested.