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Human-polar bear interactions

July 4, 2021

Human-wildlife interactions (HWI) are driven fundamentally by overlapping space and resources. As competition intensifies, the likelihood of interaction and conflict increases. In turn, conflict may impede conservation efforts by lowering social tolerance of wildlife, especially when human-wildlife conflict (HWC) poses a threat to human safety and economic well-being. Thus, mitigating conflict is one of the most consequential components of a wildlife management program, particularly for large carnivores. However, unlike other large carnivores, the causative factors and conservation consequences of interactions between humans and polar bears (Ursus maritimus) are poorly understood. Historically, mitigation of human-polar bear conflict has been a low management priority with the exception of a few locations where conflict had been a chronic concern. In part, this was because of low human densities in most of the Arctic and sea ice act as a physical barrier regulating the frequency of human-polar bear interactions. However, as the Arctic has warmed, anthropogenic activities have increased, and polar bears have become more reliant on land. As a result, mitigating interaction and conflict between humans and polar bears has become a growing concern. In this chapter, we explore the nexus of polar bear and human behavior and environmental change in driving the nature and intensity of human-polar bear interaction and conflict. We first provide an overview of behaviors that contribute to the occurrence of interactions and conflicts. We then review historical and contemporary drivers of interaction and conflict and examine how climate-mediated changes to Arctic marine and terrestrial environments are likely to influence distribution and types of future incidents. We close by proposing a conceptual framework that conservationists and managers can use to mitigate the likelihood of future human-polar bear conflict in a rapidly changing Arctic.

Publication Year 2021
Title Human-polar bear interactions
Authors Todd C. Atwood, James Wilder
Publication Type Book Chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Index ID 70221864
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Biology MFEB