Structured Decision Making for Brown Bears on National Park Service Lands in Alaska: Integration of Monitoring to Inform Management
August 2011 - December 2013
Brown bears, or grizzlies (Ursus arctos horribilis), are widely distributed, abundant, and their management is of interest throughout much of their Alaskan range. Brown bears are regulated as a game species by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) and occur in large numbers on lands managed by the National Park Service (NPS). Depending on the status of the park, NPS involvement in bear management ranges from regulating access to full involvement with ADFG in regulating harvest. By its nature, this problem involves tradeoffs between competing interests (sport hunting, subsistence hunting, and potential release of ungulates from predation) with other values such as wildlife viewing, with uncertainty about the impacts of harvest activities and human encroachment from mining and other activities on these respective values. Thus, NPS and ADFG managers face difficult decisions in establishing a balance between these conflicting needs. To aid the decision-making process, we propose to build decision-support models consisting of relationships among management actions, sources of uncertainty, and potential outcomes. Because existing knowledge of the dynamics of bear populations is imperfect, the models will allow for the formal incorporation of inventory and monitoring data to reduce uncertainty and improve the understanding of the dynamics of bear populations and future decision-making.