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The Kalandar community of South Asia has performed with dancing sloth bears (Melursus ursinus) since the late Vedic era (1000–700 BCE). This illegal profession negatively impacts wild populations because cubs are poached to fuel it. It also raises serious welfare issues for the bears. Poor enforcement, a lack of adequate facilities for confiscated bears, and sustainable alternative sources of revenue for the bears' owners have allowed it to continue. Since the late 1990s, a number of wildlife organizations have focused on this issue. Despite recent claims that it had been eradicated in India, a thorough assessment of its current status was lacking. We report on a 2010 nationwide survey of dancing bears in India and show that, despite significant achievement in reducing the number of bears involved, the practice is still prevalent, typically in rural, remote, or inaccessible areas (in at least 7 states across India). Therefore, it remains a conservation and animal welfare issue that needs to be addressed.
We assessed patterns of Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus)–human interactions in the peripheral areas of the Dachigam landscape (∼1,000 km2) that encompass Dachigam National Park, Over-Aru Wildlife Sanctuary, and 8 conservation reserves, in Kashmir, India, based on semi-structured interviews with villagers living near the protected areas during 2007–09. We recorded considerable overlap in resource use by bears and humans in this landscape: 72% of villagers interviewed (n = 227) claimed that they depended on forest resources in bear habitats, and 85% reported crop depredation by black bears. The 3 types of bear–human interactions recorded in Dachigam landscape were crop depredation, bear attacks on humans, and livestock depredation. Of these, crop damage (85%) was most common, which occurred during May–December and peaked in summer (Jun–Sep), when bears were active and crop production was at its highest. We recorded 19 cases of attacks on humans; all occurred during May–November with the maximum cases at crepuscular times (59%), in crop fields (63%), and in summer (52%). Livestock depredations were less common than other categories of bear–human interactions; 7 cases were recorded, mostly during winter. Based on our observations, we suggest strengthening indigenous crop protection methods, improving livestock night shelters, and monitoring high conflict areas by strengthened management teams. These measures have improved management of problem bears and have led to gains in local community support for bear conservation in other areas with black bear–human interactions.
American black bear (Ursus americanus) damage to corn crops in northern Wisconsin is managed by capturing and translocating bears away from fields where damage is occurring. Translocating wildlife is often not a preferred wildlife management technique because of the potential return and repeated capture of animals. Hundreds of bears are translocated in Wisconsin annually, but because anesthetizing, marking, and tracking individual bears is prohibited at the time of year that translocations occur, it is not known whether the same few bears are moved multiple times, or if a large pool of new bears continues to be trapped and translocated. To determine if bears are frequently recaptured, we used genetic techniques to identify translocated bears during 2006 and 2007. Of the 520 bears identified, very few (4%) were recaptured. Of the bears that were recaptured, most (71%) tended to return to within 10 km of their original capture locations. Our inferences relative to the direct cause of low capture rates are limited, but our results show that bears translocated from corn fields are not repeatedly recaptured in Wisconsin.
Crop depredation by brown bears (Ursus arctos) in Hokkaido, Japan, has increased over the past 2 decades. With increased depredation, the number of permits issued and the removal of conflict animals have also increased. We hypothesized that peripheral areas adjacent to agricultural lands represent attractive sink-like habitat because of the association between abundant high-quality anthropogenic food resources and high levels of human-induced mortality by nuisance control. We used an allopatric distribution of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplotypes in females to distinguish core from peripheral habitat; nuisance control for female bears was 2× greater in the periphery. Using these definitions, we investigated 85 male mtDNA haplotypes recovered from dead bears from eastern Hokkaido (1996–2008) and classified the birthplace for 64. Of these, 14 of 31 born in core were killed in periphery, whereas 5 of 33 born in periphery died in core. In periphery, the largest proportion of males killed occurred during early summer (mating season); for females, the largest proportion was in late summer (period of greatest crop damage). We also documented a significant increase in the number of males killed in the periphery since late 1990s. Timing of mortalities suggested that males were attracted to the periphery for both mating opportunities and by abundant anthropogenic food resources. Because our results suggest a directional flow of males from core to periphery, we suspected (although did not document) a net loss of residents from core. If reproduction was unable to compensate, unregulated control killing could eventually result in a decline in the numbers of males residing in the core. Our findings demonstrate an important application of mtDNA analyses as well as how source–sink dynamics can differentially affect males and females because of varying behavioral traits such as home range size and dispersal characteristics.
Previous studies have demonstrated the potential of carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analysis (SIA) of feces for use in understanding dietary components and sources. These studies suggest that SIA is useful because it is noninvasive and provides more recent dietary information integrated over a shorter time period than SIA of tissues. We sought to determine whether SIA could be employed in the analysis of feces of American black bears (Ursus americanus) in Utah. Using archived feces, we compared SIA with gross fecal analyses (GFA) to determine if a relationship existed. The percent volume of grass and pine nuts were the only significant indicators of the δ13C of feces. The amount of animal matter was the sole significant indicator of the δ15N value of feces. Although these measures were only weakly indicative (R2 ≤ 0.21), it is interesting that even in an environment that is isotopically homogenous, δ15N and δ13C provided information on the contribution of dietary components. The comparatively tight distribution of fecal δ13C values, essentially ranging −24 to −28‰, clearly indicated a diet of C3 plants. However, this study did not examine the effect of differential digestibility or intestinal slough on δ13C and δ15N values of feces. This needs to be examined. We also encourage additional studies on the usefulness of SIA of feces of omnivores and carnivores. Very few studies exist for these species, and since many of these species are particularly difficult to handle, SIA of feces may provide crucial knowledge of their short-term dietary habits.
Agricultural damage and the resulting negative attitudes of farmers are major issues in the conservation of brown bears (Ursus arctos). We analyzed 3,241 approved compensation claims to gain insight into human–brown bear conflicts in Greece from 1999 to 2006. Damage to livestock was low compared to the number of livestock in an area and affected mainly young cattle and single equids. Damage to sheep was low in Greece in comparison to other countries. Crop damage was recorded mainly in small corn fields and vineyards, while damage to apiaries was associated with their general availability in an area and resulted in considerable economic losses. Bear damage occurred throughout the year, but was most common from May to October, and with the exception of crop damage, was correlated with the current range of the species. To decrease damage levels by bears in Greece and considering the current management and conservation circumstances for the species in the country, we propose the large-scale promotion and use of livestock guarding dogs and electric fencing for small fields of valuable crops as well as apiaries. Reduction of depredation to cattle will require structural changes to the way herds are managed, and compensation for damage should be linked to active damage prevention. On a local scale the livestock husbandry systems may be adjusted by increasing herd size and by penning vulnerable livestock overnight.
Brown bears (Ursus arctos) in Scandinavia spend 5–7 winter months in dens. The denning period is a vulnerable time for bears because they are unable to escape from disturbances without losing valuable amounts of energy. Bears normally avoid human infrastructure when denning, but due to an expanding bear population some bears den relatively close to humans. We tested the hypothesis that bears denning closer to infrastructure selected more concealed den sites, as they do when selecting resting sites in the non-denning season. We analyzed horizontal cover and terrain ruggedness relative to distance from human infrastructure for 49 dens from 32 individuals differing in sex, age, and reproductive status. Bears used dens that were more concealed or located in more rugged terrain when closer to roads and settlements that had potential for high human activity. Our results suggest that human activity affects not only where bears den, but also the smaller-scale characteristics of den sites: cover and terrain. Increased knowledge about anthropogenic effects on bear denning behavior can add to a broader understanding of brown bear habitat use.
American black bears (Ursus americanus) are typically described as habitat generalists with a complex, multidimensional relationship with their environment. We used GIS and compositional analysis to examine habitat selection by black bears in the Chequamegon–Nicolet National Forest of northern Wisconsin at 2 spatial scales. To determine home ranges, we used radiotelemetry locations and the 95% minimum convex polygon home range estimator for 19 adult female bears that were monitored from May through August 2003–04. We compared habitat composition of home ranges to that available in the study area (second-order analysis), and habitats selected based on radiotelemetry locations to habitat availability within home ranges (third-order analysis). We also examined the effects of river and road density on black bear habitat selection. Home ranges contained more wetlands, mixed deciduous–coniferous forest, forested wetlands, and coniferous forest, and less deciduous forest than the study area at large. Bears selected home ranges with relatively higher river and road densities than expected. We found no discernible selection for or against cover types, roads, or rivers within home ranges. These results may have predictive value for evaluating potential black bear habitat in other parts of the state.
Although smaller than 4,000 km2, the Central Alborz Protected Area (CAPA) is one of the main habitats of brown bear (Ursus arctos) in Iran. During August 2005 to September 2009, we gathered data through direct observations of bears, identifying individual bears by means of age, sex, color, and behavior. We observed bears on 115 occasions. Mean size of cub litters was 2.00 (SE = 0.20, n = 13) and varied from 1 to 3. We speculate that low occurrence of meat in food items of the bears in the area explains this relatively small litter size. We hypothesize that the north-central portion of the Alborz Protected Area is a female core area which supports surrounding sink populations and needs to be protected more effectively.