Bears in the backyard: People, politics, and management.
Paulin, Joseph*,1, Drake, David1, Ehrenfeld, David1, Carr, Patrick2, Burguess, Kelcey2, 1 Rutgers the State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA2 New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, Hampton, New Jersey, USA
ABSTRACT- Throughout the 1800s to the mid 1900s black bear (Ursus americanus) ranges and population sizes declined in New Jersey, USA. Since the 1950s bear populations have increased, and more recently, expanded into suburban areas. As a result, the state's black bear and human populations are coming into contact and conflict more than ever before. As the black bear population rapidly expands in the most densely human populated state in the US, bear-human conflicts have risen from 285 in 1995 to over 3,000 in 2003. In December of 2003, the state's first black bear hunt since 1970 took place among much controversy. Despite its success, the New Jersey Supreme Court cancelled a 2004 hunt days before the scheduled initiation. At the urging of the public, the state is now exploring non-lethal alternatives for controlling the bear population such as immunocontraception and sterilization drugs. Although management decisions should be guided by the best available scientific data, public opinion may not be ignored, as it undoubtedly plays a role in wildlife policy decisions. Thus, management options that are acceptable to a majority of the public may attain greater success. Utilizing Dillman's Total Design Method, we initiated a statewide mail survey to explore the human-black bear interface. Surveys were sent to single-family residences (N=3,000) in areas where high and low population densities of bears exist. Our results were used to determine the factors that lead to support for or against lethal management techniques, and thresholds were respondents' attitudes shift, tolerance versus intolerance, for black bear. We expect our study to assist in the design of educational materials and arm New Jersey's wildlife managers and policy makers with much needed information to make proactive wildlife management decisions to reduce future human-black bear conflicts before they arise. Additionally, the project will serve as a model for other areas of the US with rapidly expanding human and wildlife populations, and wildlife damage problems associated with suburban/urban areas.
Key words: Ursus americanus, people, management, survey
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