Ahrestani, F.S, M.A. Ternent, M.J. Lovallo, and W. David Walter. 2020. Resource use by American black bears in suburbia: a landholder step-selection approach. Human-Wildlife Interactions 14(2): 216-227.
The spread of suburbia and the continued conversion of forested lands for people’s needs has meant less land for growing bear populations, resulting in increased human-bear conflict. With a focus to investigate the viability of using hunting as a tool to manage nuisance bears in suburbia, this study investigated the resource selection by bears across Pennsylvania, USA. This study distinguishes itself from earlier studies of recourse selection of bears by incorporating results from a survey of owners of private properties, large enough to accommodate hunting, on whether they support hunting of bears on their lands. This study used the Step Selection Function (SSF) approach, which utilizes consistent location data of short intervals from GPS collars better than older, traditional Resource Selectin Functions. In addition to the data from the survey of private land-owners, the statistical models tested by the SSF approach assessed the influence that housing density, land use type, slope, elevation, and aspect had on movement by the 31 GPS-collared bears monitored in 10-day periods prior to, during, and after the annual bear hunting season in 2010-2012. We analyzed resource selection for each of these three periods by pooling data across study sites and years, and found that the bears selected for: forested lands in all three periods; grasslands in the pre-hunt and hunting periods; east and south facing slopes in the pre-hunt and hunting periods; flatter terrain in the pre-hunt, but steeper terrain the hunting period; and private properties in the post-hunt period that did not permit hunting. Selection of private properties by bears in the post-hunt period suggests that increasing hunting on private properties may be a viable management option. The selection of forest habitats in all three periods is consistent with need for bears to fatten up with fallen mast from trees just before the den for the winter.