Quantifying the Causes of Human-Black Bear Conflicts in Nova Scotia
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Black bears are curious and will stop at nothing for a good meal. Unfortunately, Nova Scotian residents are seeing an increase in the presence of black bears around their properties and homes (Parsons pers. com., 2020). In 2020, Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forestry (NSDLF) received a record number of human-black bear conflict (HBBC) reports from residents across the province. The number of conflict reports received in 2020 more than doubles the amount from 2017, totalling over 1000 HBBCs (Figure 1), and experts predict these numbers will continue to rise over the years (Donovan, 2020). The rise in reported conflicts is alarming for a number of reasons. These conflicts can lead to a destruction of human property, and in the worst cases, attacks on humans (Lackey et. al, 2018). But outcomes are generally worse for bears. When black bears show continual aggressive behaviour, they may be euthanized by NSDLF staff (Pulsifer et. al, n.d.). Changing social norms have led to the scrutiny of euthanasia, inciting an additional and urgent need to reduce the frequency of these conflicts. Alongside the increasing number of HBBCs, another concern is that the severity of the conflicts may increase as well. When bears are exposed to an easily accessible food source, it is likely they will keep returning to this area (Lackey et al. 2018). Over time, the bears may become more confident and aggressive, with the potential of posing more danger to humans (Lackey et. al, 2018). Mitigating the number of human-bear conflicts and curbing their intensity is therefore a matter of public safety and animal well-being. This will also serve to increase the social acceptability of local management practices by reducing the pushback caused by the euthanasia of large, charismatic animals. To understand which measures can be used to solve this issue, there must first be an examination of its causes.