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


Date of this Version



Ecological Modelling 367 (2018), pp.10–12.


U.S. government work.


The long-term survival of carnivores is greatly challenged by conflict with humans. Such conflicts can bolster risk perceptions,lower tolerance, and lead to support of lethal control of carnivores.To address this ubiquitous challenge and improve conservation outcomes specifically for American black bears (Ursus americanus),Marley et al. (2017) used an agent based model to explore how management strategies could alter the use of the urban environment by bears, and subsequently reduce the occurrence of human-bear conflicts. Management strategies entailed education only, where people were taught to remove food attractants, apply aversive conditioning, or both, and the authors considered different spatial configurations of implementation (border, clustered, and random). Education resulting in food removals led to a reduction in the food values of urban cells. Education resulting in aversive conditioning led to increased vigilance by humans and increased probability of a bear being deterred, which in turn, resulted in the bear moving a significant distance away from the urban cell as well as a reduced memory value for those cells. Food and memory cell values deter-mined the movement choices of the bears in the next time step, and cell visits along with the occurrence of deterrence events deter-mined the habituation and food conditioning status of bears. When bears reached thresholds determined by the authors, they changed their status from ‘graduated’ to ‘survival’ and eventually ‘conflict’ status, which was modeled as a function of independent variables including initialization conditions (e.g., percent urbanization; Table5 of Marley et al., 2017) and management strategies (e.g., clustered vigilance; Fig. 5 of Marley et al., 2017). The authors concluded that,compared to a ‘no teaching’ scenario, education works to reduce‘conflict’ bears in urban areas, and that teaching people to apply aversive conditioning was the most effective strategy.

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