Human disturbance causes behavioral responses in wildlife, including large carnivores. Previous research in Scandinavia has documented that brown bears (Ursus arctos) show a variety of behavioral reactions to different human activities. We investigated how proximity to human settlements and roads, as proxies of human influence, affected brown bears' reactions to encountering humans. We analyzed experimental approaches to GPS collared bears, 18 males and 23 single females, in Sweden (n = 148 approaches) and Finland (n = 33), conducted between 2004 and 2012. The bears in Finland inhabited areas with higher human density compared to Sweden. However, the proportion of bears staying or moving when approached and the flight initiation distances were similar in both countries. In Sweden, the flight responses were not dependent on human densities or roads inside the bears' home ranges or the distances from the bears to roads and settlements. Brown bears in Fennoscandia live in areas with relatively low human population densities, but in many areas with high forestry road densities. Our results show that bears' flight reactions were consistent between areas, which is an important message for management, reinforcing previous studies that have documented human avoidance by bears at different spatial and temporal scales.
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Vol. 26 • No. 1