We surveyed 52 jurisdictions across continental North America to gather comparative information on management strategies for American black bear (Ursus americanus) for the late 1980s and the start of the 21st century. Specifically, we asked about: population estimates and targets, harvest objectives and hunting methods (spring hunt, use of bait, use of dogs), hunter and harvest data, and trends in human–bear conflicts. Most population estimates were derived through a subjective process of extrapolation and expert opinion and were used as the basis for adjusting management practices. In 17 jurisdictions that had spring hunts, estimated black bear populations increased by 6%, compared to a 51% increase in the 21 jurisdictions with fall-only seasons. Estimated populations increased by 87% in the 14 jurisdictions without hunting seasons. Another 10 jurisdictions had reports of occasional transient bears but no resident population. Jurisdictions with liberal hunting regimes tended to maintain human–bear conflict at stable levels, whereas those with more restrictive regimes appeared to experience a growing trend. We suggest that the goal of management should be to balance the goals of maintaining viable black bear populations, safeguarding human welfare and property, and satisfying the needs of stakeholders in a cost-effective manner. Hunting and proactive education and awareness programs are keys to achieving that balance. By setting appropriate harvest objectives and hunting methods to regulate the density and distribution of black bears, in conjunction with measures to deter bears from associating people and dwellings with food, agencies should be better able to manage for human–bear conflict in the 21st century.
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Vol. 18 • No. 1