We assessed human attitudes toward brown bears (Ursus arctos) and their acceptance from 3,789 questionnaires collected in northwest Lithuania in 2009. We present results on the (1) value placed upon brown bears by respondents, (2) acceptable distances for these animals from the residence of respondents, (3) assessments of possible damage and economic losses, (4) management options preferred in different situations, and (5) respondent opinions regarding brown bear numbers in the country. There are no permanent brown bear populations in the country. We found that Lithuanians attributed high value to the species, but that 82.4% of respondents reported they would fear for the safety of their families knowing bears inhabit forests. On average, 60 to 70% of respondents will not accept bears closer than 10 km. In this respect, the re-establishment of bear populations in Lithuania would be not appreciated by most inhabitants. We found that 22.5% of respondents would like to have action taken against bears even if they lived far from settlements. Scaring away and shooting of the bears were the significantly most preferred options in situations where the bears might be encountered near human settlements or in cases where they actually threaten human life. An increasing concern about the environment and involvement in outdoor activities were correlative to a positive attitude toward an increase in bear populations. Exceptions to this were with berry and mushroom pickers; these groups generally were against any growth in the bear population. A total eradication of bears or a reduction in their numbers were the preferred options by farmstead and village dwellers, whereas urban respondents generally favored a population increase. The main conclusion of our study is that acceptance of this species, which at this moment do not inhabit country, is similar to acceptance of other large carnivore species.
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Vol. 23 • No. 2