Conference Paper

Is supplemental feeding with carrion an effective way to reduce human-bear conflicts?

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Abstract

Supplemental feeding is often believed to be a successful tool for reducing human–bear (Ursus arctos) conflicts, especially in Europe. However, effectiveness of this measure is poorly understood and there is growing concern for potential negative side-effects. This is particularly true for supplemental feeding using livestock carrion. Carrion feeding is considered especially effective in reducing livestock depredations by diverting bears from pastures and meeting their protein needs. In Slovenia, year-round supplementary feeding of bears with livestock carrion and maize was intensive and in some areas practiced for over 100 years. However, in 2004 the use of livestock carrion was banned in accordance with European Union regulations. This provided an opportunity to study the effects of carrion feeding on livestock depredations by bears. We used sheep for model species as they represented 97% of all depredation events by brown bears in Slovenia. We analysed whether bears selectively used carrion feeding stations over maize feeding stations (i.e., indicating that carrion might be more effective in diverting bears from sheep pastures) during 1994–2011, and compared the annual frequency and seasonal distribution of sheep depredations 5 years before and after the ban on livestock carrion feeding during 1999–2009. We found no support that bears selected carrion feeding sites over feeding sites with maize. When controlled for changes in bear and sheep numbers, there was no indication that the ban on carrion feeding increased sheep depredations. Moreover, complementary data indicated that natural protein sources (e.g., invertebrates) were considerably more important than livestock carrion and that use of carrion peaked in spring, when sheep are rarely outdoors and thus unavailable for depredation. Because of the observed lack of effectiveness, high costs, and potential negative side-effects, we discourage supplemental feeding with livestock carrion to reduce livestock depredation.

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In this paper, we address three aspects of the brown bear population in Slovenia: its size (and its evolution over time), its spatial expansion out of the core area, and its potential habitat based on natural habitat suitability. Data collected through measurement/observation of the bear population and from the literature are used. A model is developed for each aspect. The results are estimates of population size, a picture of the spatial expansion of the population and maps of its optimal and maximal potential habitat (based on natural suitability). Overall, the brown bear population has been increasing since the establishment of a core protective area and has been expanding outside this area. The habitat suitability maps show that there is room for further expansion. Based on habitat suitability and bear population density, as well as human activity and current damage reports, we recommend that the Alps should be temporarily kept free of the bears, until the necessary mitigation measures regarding human–bear conflicts are carried out. On the other hand it is of crucial importance to adapt human activities and improve bear management in the optimal habitat, with which the goals of successful conservation of the species might be achieved.
Article
Recently, researchers in several areas of ecology and evolution have begun to change the way in which they analyze data and make biological inferences. Rather than the traditional null hypothesis testing approach, they have adopted an approach called model selection, in which several competing hypotheses are simultaneously confronted with data. Model selection can be used to identify a single best model, thus lending support to one particular hypothesis, or it can be used to make inferences based on weighted support from a complete set of competing models. Model selection is widely accepted and well developed in certain fields, most notably in molecular systematics and mark-recapture analysis. However, it is now gaining support in several other areas, from molecular evolution to landscape ecology. Here, we outline the steps of model selection and highlight several ways that it is now being implemented. By adopting this approach, researchers in ecology and evolution will find a valuable alternative to traditional null hypothesis testing, especially when more than one hypothesis is plausible.
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