Diversionary feeding of black bears (Ursus americanus) around campgrounds and residential areas has received little study because of concerns that it might create nuisance bears and jeopardize public safety. To evaluate those concerns and assess its effectiveness in mitigating human–bear conflict, we studied diversionary feeding, habituation, and food conditioning at a U.S. Forest Service campground and residential complex near Ely, Minnesota. During 1981 to 1983, 6 bears (2/year) had been removed from this area as nuisances; but during 8 years of diversionary feeding (1984 to 1991), the only removals were 2 bears that had newly immigrated to the periphery of the study area and had not yet found the diversionary feeding site. The reduction in nuisance activity was significant, despite continued availability of garbage and the fact that the study bears were habituated and food-conditioned. No bear that visited the diversionary-feeding site became a nuisance or jeopardized public safety, even in 1985, the year with the lowest bear food index and the highest number of nuisance complaints ever recorded throughout Minnesota. Diversionary feeding led to greater tolerance of bears by residents. My data indicate that hunger, not habituation and food-conditioning, creates bear–human conflicts.

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