The brown bear (Ursus arctos) is the largest carnivore in Turkey and has been legally protected since 2003. However, increasing levels of conflict between brown bears and humans have been reported for several regions, especially for Artvin in northeastern Turkey. We documented the conflict in an attempt to understand human attitudes and responses and evaluate existing and potential damage prevention techniques. The study was conducted within landscapes at different scales, ranging from a core area defined by a large valley system to the whole of the Artvin Province. Data on close encounters, injuries, and damage caused were collected through government records, published literature, and open-ended interviews with the local people. On more than two-thirds of close encounters recorded, no harm occurred to bear or people. Bear attacks on humans were rare and only occasionally led to non-fatal injuries. Nevertheless, several bears were shot and killed in the study area during the study (2002–2005), apparently as a consequence of damage experienced by farmers. Interviews indicated a widespread belief that bears have become more of a problem. Bear damage was reported mostly in late summer for field crops and orchards and in spring for beehives. Precautions taken by villagers relied mostly on locally available technologies and varied in effectiveness against bears. We propose that introduction and implementation of modern techniques of exclusion such as portable electric fences around valuable resources (e.g. bee yards), improvements in bear awareness, and effective cooperation among various stakeholders would reduce human–bear conflict to acceptable levels in the region.
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Vol. 19 • No. 2