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Large carnivore attacks on humans: a worldwide study to investigate triggering factors, scenarios, spatial-temporal patterns and species attributes. PhD Thesis
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Abstract Attacks by wild carnivores on humans represent an increasing problem in urban areas across North America and their frequency is expected to rise following urban expansion towards carnivore habitats. Here, we analyzed records of carnivore attacks on humans in urban areas of the U.S. and Canada between 1980 and 2016 to analyze the general patterns of the attacks, as well as describe the landscape structure and, for those attacks occurring at night, the light conditions at the site of the attacks. We found that several behavioral and landscape-related factors were recurrent elements in the attacks recorded. The species for which the attack locations were available (coyote and black bear) attacked in areas with different conditions of landscape structure and artificial light. Specifically, black bears attacked more frequently in areas with abundant and aggregated vegetation cover and scarce buildings and roads, while coyotes attacked in a broader range of landscape conditions. At night, black bears attacked in generally darker areas than coyotes. By providing a comprehensive perspective of the phenomenon, this study will improve our understanding of how effective strategies aimed at reducing the frequency of risky encounters in urban areas should be developed.
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Encounters between humans and wildlife that result in human fatalities can generate public anxiety and increase pressure on conservation managers and governments for risk mitigation. Low probability-high consequence events such as shark bites on humans attract substantial media attention for short time periods, but how the media react when several of these rare but fatal events occur in quick succession has seldom been subject to quantitative analysis. Understanding media portrayal of such encounters is important because it both reflects and influences public perceptions of risks, mitigation measures, and conservation policies. This study examined media portrayals of sharks between 2011 and 2013 in the state of Western Australia during which six shark bites resulting in fatalities occurred. We analysed 361 shark-related articles published in major Western Australian newspapers over 26 months to trace changes in media reporting about sharks prior to, during, and after the six fatalities. The findings indicate that when rare, but fatal human-wildlife events occur in quick succession, negative framing by media of wildlife behaviour and threats can exaggerate public anxiety about the pervasive presence of wildlife predators and high risk of human fatalities. The study highlights the need for government agencies and conservation scientists to better engage with media to provide accurate and effective information and advice to swimmers and surfers about shark ecology and behaviour.
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Public tolerance toward predators is fundamental in their conservation and is highly driven by people's perception of the risk they may pose. Although predator attacks on humans are rare, they create lasting media attention, and the way the media covers them might affect people's risk perception. Understanding how mass media presents attacks and how this can affect perception will provide insights into potential strategies to improve coexistence with these species. We collected media reports of predator attacks on humans and examined their content. Almost half (41.5%) of the analyzed reports contained graphic elements. Differences in framing between species groups or species were found, with sharks and leopards having the highest proportion of graphic reports, whereas canids and bears had the highest number of neutral reports. This bias in coverage, instead of providing insights into the causes of these incidents and possible remedies, may provoke fear and decrease support for predator conservation. link to full-text: https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/68/8/577/5051779
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Human persecution and habitat loss have endangered large carnivore populations worldwide, but some are recovering, exacerbating old conflicts. Carnivores can injure and kill people; the most dramatic form of wildlife-human conflict. In Scandinavia, the brown bear (Ursus arctos) population increased from ~500 bears in 1977 to ~3300 in 2008, with an increase in injuries, fatalities, and public fear of bear attacks. We reviewed media coverage and interviewed victims to explore how bear population trends, hunter education, and other factors may have influenced the number of injuries and fatalities in Scandinavia from 1977 to 2016. We found 42 incidents with 42 injuries and 2 fatalities; 42 were adult men, one was an adult woman conducting forestry work, and one was a boy skiing off-piste. Thirty-three adult men were hunting bears, moose, or small game, often with a hunting dog, and 26 had shot at the bear at 8±11 m before injury. Eleven nonhunters were conducting forestry work, inspecting a hunting area, picking berries, tending livestock, hiking, harassing a denned bear, and one person was killed outside his house at night. Eight of the 11 incidents of nonhunters involved female bears with cubs; three of these family groups were in dens and two were on carcasses. The annual number of hunters injured/killed was mostly influenced by the increase in the bear population size. The pattern was similar regarding injuries/fatalities to other outdoor users, but the relation with the bear population size was weaker than for hunters, and the null model was equally supported. Bear physiology at denning may make encounters with bears more risky in the fall, when bears show prehibernation behavior. Awareness and education efforts, especially among hunters, seem important to ensure human safety. Recreationists and forestry workers should avoid dense vegetation or make noise to warn bears of their presence.
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We present an analysis of human–bear (Ursus spp.) conflicts that occurred in Alaska, USA, from 1880 to 2015. We collected 682 human–bear conflicts, consisting of 61,226 data entries, from various sources available to us. We found that human–bear attacks are rare events, averaging 2.6/year across the study period, though increasing to 7.6/year in the current decade. Grizzly bears (U. arctos) dominated conflicts (88%), followed by black bears (U. americanus; 11%), and lastly polar bears (U. maritimus; 1%). Although grizzly bear family groups are often involved in conflicts (32% of all attacks), single grizzlies are involved more than any other cohort (45%). Human–bear conflicts occurred during every month of the year and the majority occurred during daytime when people were most active (82%). Human group size was a significant factor in bear conflicts: the larger the group (≥2 persons), the less likely to be involved in a confrontation. Habitat visibility also contributed to conflict, the poorer the visibility the more likely bears were to engage with people, presumably because of an inability to detect them until very close. When domestic dogs intervened in attacks, they terminated them nearly half of the time (47.5%). However, in 12.5% of cases, dogs appeared to have initiated the conflict. When involved, rescuers terminated maulings in 90.3% of cases, but were themselves mauled 9.7% of the time. We offer these, and other, insights derived from this work that will inform wildlife biologists’ bear safety training and public outreach. © 2018 The Wildlife Society.
Chapter
Large carnivores are challenging to manage, partly because they are wide-ranging and therefore have large distribution ranges that may cross political or administrative boundaries. Moreover, large carnivores are conflict prone in relation with some human activities, which results in diverse conservation and management policies. The conservation and management policies of European brown bears Ursus arctos are frequently characterised by conflicting management regimes. Thus, a comparative study of conservation and management practices of European brown bear populations may provide valuable insights into the problems related to trans-boundary, conflict-solution oriented management of large carnivores in human-dominated landscapes. In this chapter, we provide an overview of brown bear management across Europe, including existing decision-making and policy aspects. Since most European populations are extending over several countries or regions, more effort is required to increase trans-boundary and trans-regional coordination in conservation and management policies. We suggest that such trans-boundary or trans-regional approaches should coordinate monitoring efforts within and between bear populations, in order to make data comparable, harmonize regulations and management goals, and to develop strategies to define and handle problematic individuals. Several trans-boundary initiatives have already been put in practice. For example, considerable efforts are currently being developed in both monitoring and research activities, but we encourage further international collaboration, particularly in policy and applied management.
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In recent years, the number of bear attacks has risen in Akita prefecture, Japan. Here, we present the injury patterns of seven fatal bear attacks, and discuss the implication of these findings. We included five cases of Asiatic black bear attacks and two cases of Ezo brown bear attacks. In all cases, the injuries, 2-5 parallel linear lacerations with severe hemorrhaging and decollement, were mainly located on the upper body. These injuries were thought to be fatal as, upon a first encounter, bears often stand and first attack the victim's head and face using their claws. Four lacerations were located at the vertex of the trapezoid in all cases, without severe hemorrhaging on the neck, extremities, or around the antemortem injuries. These injuries were thought to be bite marks incurred by the bears' four large canines, mainly occurring postmortem during the process of predation. These findings differed from those of fatal biting around the neck by other animals such as lions, mountain lions, or large-sized dogs. Further, laceration with avulsion of the skin was found in the inguinal region, without severe hemorrhaging. In some cases, the intestine had been removed from the inguinal injury for predation. In conclusion, the injuries of bear attacks are different from those caused by other animals, owing to the characteristics of bears. By investigating the injuries caused by fatal bear attacks, we can better understand the patterns of such injuries. Especially, the diameter between the canines is sometimes useful to estimate the size and the number of offending bears.