U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Published in PloS One 6:e15681, doi:10.1371/journal.pone0015681


Evidence-based decision-making is critical for implementing conservation actions, especially for human-wildlife conflicts, which have been increasing worldwide. Conservation practitioners recognize that long-term solutions should include altering human behaviors, and public education and enforcement of wildlife-related laws are two management actions frequently implemented, but with little empirical evidence evaluating their success. We used a system where human-black bear conflicts were common, to experimentally test the efficacy of education and enforcement in altering human behavior to better secure attractants (garbage) from bears. We conducted 3 experiments in Aspen CO, USA to evaluate: 1) on-site education in communal dwellings and construction sites, 2) Bear Aware educational campaign in residential neighborhoods, and 3) elevated law enforcement at two levels in the core business area of Aspen. We measured human behaviors as the response including: violation of local wildlife ordinances, garbage availability to bears, and change in use of bear-resistance refuse containers. As implemented, we found little support for education, or enforcement in the form of daily patrolling in changing human behavior, but found more support for proactive enforcement, i.e., dispensing warning notices. More broadly we demonstrated the value of gathering evidence before and after implementing conservation actions, and the dangers of measuring responses in the absence of ecological knowledge. We recommend development of more effective educational methods, application of proactive enforcement, and continued evaluation of tools by directly measuring change in human behavior. We provide empirical evidence adding to the conservation managers’ toolbox, informing policy makers, and promoting solutions to human-wildlife conflicts.