In the 1980s, black bears (Ursus americanus) began expanding into historic habitats in northwestern Nevada, USA. Over a period of >30 years, black bears recolonized areas where human populations have also increased. Our research represents one of, if not the longest-running and earliest comparative studies of a black bear population at wildland–urban interface and wildland areas in North America. As the population increased, we observed: 1) increasing human–bear conflicts in areas where several generations of people had lived in almost total absence of bears (70–80+ years); 2) changes in attitudes by the public toward bears and in the social realm regarding garbage management; and 3) changes in the demographics, behavior, and ecology of this bear population, due to an increasing human footprint on the landscape. Herein, we discuss a few of the lessons learned from this long-term study and the value of a collaborative approach between a state agency, a university, and an international conservation organization. Our collaborative approach allowed us to better understand the ecological, demographic, and behavioral changes in a large, recolonizing carnivore that is a functional omnivore, often residing at the wildland-urban interface, and to use these data to impact conservation and management. Throughout the study, our data were used extensively by various media, emphasizing public education about human–bear conflicts. This media platform proved important because of the impact it had on wildlife conservation. For example, partly in response to media coverage of our data-based education efforts, 3 Nevada counties enacted garbage management ordinances, and the Nevada legislature passed a state law prohibiting the feeding of large game mammals. Further, several million dollars in bear-resistant garbage containers are now used in the region by the public and government entities. The end result of these conservation measures has been a recolonization of the Great Basin Desert by bears from the Lake Tahoe Basin and Sierra-Nevada Range into portions of Nevada where bears have been absent for >80 years.
Beckmann, Jon P. and Lackey, Carl W.
"Lessons Learned From a 20-Year Collaborative Study on American Black Bears,"
Human–Wildlife Interactions: Vol. 12
, Article 9.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/hwi/vol12/iss3/9