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How artificial feeding for tourism-watching modifies black bear space use and habitat selection

Massé Sophie, Dussault Christian, Dussault Claude et Ibarzabal Jacques. (2014). How artificial feeding for tourism-watching modifies black bear space use and habitat selection. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 78, (7), p. 1228-1238.

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Artificial feeding stations often are established to attract and habituate wildlife species to facilitate their observation, but this activity is controversial because of its potential negative impact on wildlife and, in some cases, threat to human safety. Bear managers have few empirical data to establish guidelines for bear-watching sites. The objective of our study was to compare behaviors of black bear (Ursus americanus) with access to a highly-predictable artificial food source established for tourist-watching purposes (n = 11) and control bears (n = 16) in the boreal forest of Quebec, Canada. We hypothesized that fed bears would have lesser movement rates and smaller home-range sizes than control bears, and that they would exhibit lower selection of habitat types providing abundant natural food resources (agricultural lands, regenerating, and disturbed stands) because they visit fewer food patches to meet their energy requirements. We also predicted that behavioral differences between fed and control bears would be most obvious during the period of hyperphagia (late summer and fall) when bears increase their food intake. Between 2008 and 2011, we located fed bears <1 km away from the feeding station 22.3 ± 3.7%, 48.5 ± 6.2%, and 55.9 ± 5.0% of the time in spring, summer, and fall seasons. Annual and seasonal ranges of control bears were 2.1 to 7.1 times larger than fed bears, except during the spring when bears often increased travel to access females for reproduction. Moreover, fed bears modified their movement pattern and selected vegetation types with abundant natural food resources to a lower degree, especially in the fall. Our results show that a well-supplied feeding station can attract and sustain many bears, even in relatively poor bear habitat, leading to a local increase in bear density that might exceed the social carrying capacity. Considering the use of space by fed bears, we recommend avoiding establishing feeding stations <11.5 km from locations where human-bear interactions should be limited (i.e., recreation sites, cabins, etc.). Behaviors adopted by fed bears were energetically profitable as evidenced by their approximately 40% greater body masses compared to control bears, suggesting the potentially positive influence of a feeding station on local population dynamics. We hope our results will increase awareness of wildlife managers about the impacts of feeding bear for tourism purposes.

Type de document:Article publié dans une revue avec comité d'évaluation
Pages:p. 1228-1238
Version évaluée par les pairs:Oui
Identifiant unique:10.1002/jwmg.778
Sujets:Sciences naturelles et génie > Sciences appliquées > Foresterie et sciences du bois
Sciences naturelles et génie > Sciences naturelles > Biologie et autres sciences connexes
Département, module, service et unité de recherche:Départements et modules > Département des sciences fondamentales
Unités de recherche > Centre de recherche sur la Boréalie (CREB)
Mots-clés:activity pattern, black bear, feeding site, habitat selection, home range, space use
Déposé le:06 juin 2023 13:05
Dernière modification:06 juin 2023 13:05
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