Quantifying the Spatial Ecology of Human-Bear Conflict in a Wildland-Urban Landscape

Researcher's Name:Mary von der Porten
Researcher's Affiliation:School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University
Researcher's Job Title:Bear Researcher
Researcher's Email address:[email protected]
Project Start Date:2008
Project End Date:2010
Location of Study Area:Whistler, BC
Links to Published Material:
Sponsors/Funders were:NSERC & Simon Fraser University


MARY W. VON DER PORTEN, School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada V5A 1S6, [email protected] (corresponding author)

ANNE K. SALOMON, School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University.

ANDREW B. COOPER, School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University.

NICOLA A. BICKERTON, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Province of British Columbia,

Human-carnivore conflict poses a serious conservation challenge worldwide. While non-lethal management strategies are increasingly sought, identifying effective tools demands an understanding of the interplay among multiple drivers of conflict and the behavioral ecology of the species in question. We quantified the spatial patterns of human-black bear (Ursus americanus) conflict in Whistler, Canada using utilization distributions of incidents grouped by bear reproductive class, gender, and season. We examined the strength of evidence for the effects of landscape and habitat covariates associated with conflict at a local scale (30m2) using a resource utilization function model and a model selection approach. Results indicate that spatial patterns of conflict differed among bear reproductive classes and genders, and between seasons, reflecting bear ecology and behaviour. However, landscape attributes were unable to predict the relative probability of conflict. This demonstrates that black bear behaviour is flexible such that individual animals will forage opportunistically to gain food rewards around human activity, and that the spatial patterns of conflict at a local scale may be a result of attractant availability and learned behaviour rather than habitat quality. Our study suggests that wildland-urban landscapes can provide relatively unconstrained access to bears, and thus conflict with humans; and further, that habitat and landscape attributes are unable to predict the location of conflict at the local scale. Therefore, the manipulation of small scale landscape features may not prevent or reduce future conflict within the wildland-urban interface. Rather, multiple non-lethal measures, fine-scale attractant reduction, and highly responsive adaptive management are required to reduce human-bear conflict at local spatial scales.


Our research is centered on a spatial model of human-bear conflict and we inform management policies addressing this issue. We provide a scientific examination of how bears use landscapes where they must navigate human activity as part of their habitat. Specifically, we look at conflict in a semi-urban landscape- a setting that is increasingly important for the conservation of vulnerable species. We found that conflict patterns were not predictable based on landscape and habitat covariates at a small scale – highlighting the need for adaptive policies in the management of human-carnivore conflict. In other words, we see no ‘silver-bullet’ for preventing conflict based on strategic landscape planning within affected communities.

Non-lethal management of human-carnivore conflict is the key to ensuring the survival of certain populations in perpetuity. Our research provides necessary foundation for such non-lethal carnivore management, an important and timely issue in wildlife management. Further, while human-wildlife conflict continues to threaten the survival of many species, quantification of fine scale patterns (what we call ‘local scale’) have yet to be addressed. We believe our research fills that gap and will help tie larger scale conservation policies to everyday fine/local scale management, an essential step in mitigating human-wildlife conflict.

Future Research Suggested by Project

  • Discrete choice model for individual bears at the small scale
  • More information on how to control attractants in the area
  • Better understanding of how population dynamics effect conflict probability


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