Investigating Methods to Reduce Black Bear (Ursus americanus) Visitation to Anthropogenic Food Sources: Conditioned Taste Aversion and Food Removal

Kari D. Signor
Conflicts between humans and black bears (Ursus americanus) jeopardize the safety of both humans and bears, especially when bears become food-conditioned to anthropogenic food sources in areas such as campgrounds. Interest in using non-lethal techniques, such as aversive conditioning, to manage such conflicts is growing. I conducted a captive experiment at The Wildlife Science Center in Minnesota and two field experiments in the La Sal Mountains, Utah, to investigate the effects of taste
more » ... n conditioning using thiabendazole (TBZ) with a novel flavor cue and food removal on black bear food consumption and visitation to human food sources. In 2007, I conducted food trials with 6 captive black bears (3 control, 3 treatment). Controls received 1 kg baked goods scented with a peppermint-canola oil mixture and treatments received 1 kg baked goods also scented with a peppermint-canola oil mixture but mixed with 10-20 g TBZ. In the 2007 field experiment, I baited 24 field sites with 300 g of baked goods during a baseline phase for approximately 3 weeks. Half of these sites were then treated with 10 g of TBZ and camphor during a treatment phase for 4 weeks. In 2008, I baited 22 sites with 300 g of baked goods during a baseline phase for approximately 4 weeks. I then removed food and discontinued baiting at half of the sites for 4 weeks. Infrared cameras and barbed-wire hair snags were established at field sites to document bear visitation. I did not establish taste aversion in treated bears in captivity and bears fully consumed food in the majority of trials. Treating food supplies with 10 g TBZ and camphor flavor did not significantly reduce bear visitation (P = 0.615) or food consumption at field sites (P = 0.58). However, I observed a significant reduction in bear activity at sites where food was removed (P = 0.006). Potential reasons for my failure to reduce bear visitation using thiabendazole include insufficient conditioning, reluctance of bears to desist in investigating sites that previously contained untreat [...]
doi:10.26076/8f6e-a109 fatcat:od5set523zfdrdh3q7w3wvcoha