Sam M. J. G. Steyaert, Ole-Gunnar Støen, Marcus Elfström, Jens Karlsson, Ron Van Lammeren, Jan Bokdam, Andreas Zedrosser, Sven Brunberg, Jon E. Swenson
Wildlife Biology 17 (4), 389-403, (1 December 2011) https://doi.org/10.2981/11-004
KEYWORDS: brown bear, cattle, coexistence, depredation, human-wildlife conflict, resource selection, Ursus arctos
Livestock depredation is an important factor that contributes to low public acceptance of large carnivores, and it is often used as an incentive to reduce large carnivore populations. In central Sweden, brown bears Ursus arctos coexist with a traditional cattle husbandry system that allows daytime free-ranging of dairy cattle. Despite a growing brown bear population, depredation on cattle remained stable during the last decade and is among the lowest rates reported worldwide. Nevertheless, major stakeholders argue for a substantial reduction in brown bear numbers, among other reasons, to safeguard the traditional husbandry system. Based on satellite tracking data, we assessed and correlated the resource selection of nine brown bears that were sympatric with six daytime free-ranging cattle herds during the free-ranging season (i.e. June-August) in 2008. We found a significant and negative relationship between resource selection of brown bears and free-ranging cattle during the study period, mainly because of inverse relationships between the species towards vegetation density and human-related infrastructure, such as forest roads, buildings and settlements. We predict that the probability of an encounter between these species, given that there is no directed predation, is highest in dense vegetation patches close to the human habitation-related variables. Because of the low reported depredation rates and the apparent habitat segregation between the species, our results provide no support for the argument to reduce brown bear numbers to safeguard the traditional cattle herding system.