Autumn ungulate hunting in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem carries the risk of hunter–grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) conflict and creates a substantial challenge for managers. For Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA, a key information need is whether increased availability of elk (Cervus canadensis) carcasses during a late autumn (Nov–Dec) harvest within the national park attracts grizzly bears and increases the potential for conflict with hunters. Using a robust design analysis with 6 primary sampling periods during 2014–2015, we tested the hypothesis that the elk harvest resulted in temporary movements of grizzly bears into the hunt areas, thus increasing bear numbers. We detected 31 unique individuals (6 F, 25 M) through genetic sampling and retained 26 encounter histories for analysis. Markovian movement models had more support than a null model of no temporary movement. Contrary to our research hypothesis, temporary movements into the study area occurred between the July–August (no hunt; N̄2014–2015 = 5) and September–October (no hunt; N̄2014–2015 = 24) primary periods each year, rather than during the transition from September–October (no hunt) to November–December (hunt; N̄2014–2015 = 15). A post hoc analysis indicated that September–October population estimates were biased high by detections of transient bears. Grizzly bear presence during the elk hunt was limited to approximately 15 resident bears that specialized in accessing elk carcasses. The late timing of the elk hunt likely moderated the effect of carcasses as a food attractant because it coincides with the onset of hibernation. From a population response perspective, the current timing of the elk harvest likely represents a scenario of low relative risk of hunter–bear conflicts. The risk of hunter–grizzly bear encounters remains, but may be more a function of factors that operate at the level of individual bears and hunters, such as hunter movements and bear responses to olfactory cues.
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Vol. 2019 • No. 30e1