Understanding the relationship between foraging ecology and the presence of human-dominated landscapes is important, particularly for American black bears (Ursus americanus), which sometimes move between wildlands and urban areas to forage. The food-related factors influencing this movement have not been explored, but can be important for understanding the benefits and costs to black bear foraging behavior and the fundamental origins of bear conflicts. We tested whether the scarcity of wildland foods or the availability of urban foods can explain when black bears forage near houses, examined the extent to which male bears use urban areas in comparison to females, and identified the most important food items influencing bear movement into urban areas. We monitored 16 collared black bears in and around Missoula, Montana, during 2009 and 2010, while quantifying the rate of change in green vegetation and the availability of 5 native berry-producing species outside the urban area, the rate of change in green vegetation, and the availability of apples and garbage inside the urban area. We used parametric time-to-event models in which an event was a bear location collected within 100 m of a house. We also visited feeding sites located near houses and quantified food items bears had eaten. The probability of a bear being located near a house was 1.6 times higher for males, and increased during apple season and the urban green-up. Fruit trees accounted for most of the forage items at urban feeding sites (49%), whereas wildland foods composed <10%. Black bears foraged on human foods near houses even when wildland foods were available, suggesting that the absence of wildland foods may not influence the probability of bears foraging near houses. Additionally, other attractants, in this case fruit trees, appear to be more important than the availability of garbage in influencing when bears forage near houses.
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Vol. 94 • No. 2