Non-lethal methods can resolve conflicts between bears and humans

How do you keep a black bear from taking out the backyard bird feeder or going through your garbage? Play the sound of a helicopter, or flash a strobe light, say scientists from the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and other organizations, who tested several non-lethal techniques to minimize conflicts between humans and large carnivores.

The scientists, who published their results in the December edition of Conservation Biology, compared the effectiveness of non-lethal methods for keeping large carnivores away from human structures, livestock, and other potential conflict areas. They found that motion-activated lights and sounds can keep both large- and medium-sized predators away from food sources, thus preventing a clash that can result in large carnivores being destroyed.

"In wealthy countries such as the United States, non-lethal repellents such as motion-activated guards can help resolve human-carnivore conflicts without destroying animals that perform important ecological roles" said Dr. Adrian Treves, a conservationist with WCS's Living Landscapes program and co-author of the study. "We need better methods and we need to consider human behavior as part of the problem--limiting the accessibility of food sources whether its garbage, crops or livestock."

In the study, conservationists tested the non-lethal repellent methods in six wolf territories in Wisconsin (which also contained black bears and other predators). The study found that motion-activated devices, with strobe lights and 30 random noises, were effective for keeping predators away from deer carcasses at the study sites, including bald eagles, wolves, vultures--and black bears. Fladry--a wolf management method from Eastern Europe using flags on fences--may be moderately effective in repelling wolves, but not bears.

"High-technology devices are much more expensive, complicated, and limited in effectiveness than a single bullet from a high-powered rifl

Contact: Stephen Sautner
Wildlife Conservation Society

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