We conducted informal interviews with villagers and park and buffer zone personnel in protected areas of Nepal presumed to contain Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus) during 19 September–10 November 2005. Based on these interviews, we assessed the presence and persistence of this species in Nepal. We conducted interviews in Shey Phoksundo National Park, Langtang National Park, Shivapuri National Park, the Junbesi area (south of Sagarmatha National Park), and Kanchenjunga Conservation Area. Bears were documented in all 5 areas; annual bear sightings reportedly increased in Junbesi and the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area; sighting frequency remained similar in the other areas. The extent of human–bear conflicts varied markedly between sites; in all but Langtang National Park, which attributed crop loss to other wildlife, bears were observed raiding corn crops during summer and early fall. Recent bear attacks on humans were reported from Junbesi and Langtang National Park and occurred in villages as well as in the surrounding forest. The Maoist insurgency has had both positive and negative implications for wildlife. Insurgents intimidated outsiders who were responsible for most poaching. However, the presence of Maoists resulted in the departure of personnel associated with conservation and protection, leaving no staff to monitor or oversee wildlife and habitat preservation. Additional surveys are needed to further knowledge of bear distribution as well as research on bear–habitat relations. Understanding bear ecology and developing adaptive management in the protected areas may help alleviate conflicts between bears and humans, thus maintaining or increasing their ability to coexist. However, loss of regulatory control due to the insurgency may make any attempts to monitor and conserve wildlife populations ineffectual.
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Vol. 18 • No. 1