Supplemental feeding is often believed to be a successful tool for reducing human–bear (Ursus arctos) conflicts, especially in Europe. However, effectiveness of this measure is poorly understood and there is growing concern for potential negative side-effects. This is particularly true for supplemental feeding using livestock carrion. Carrion feeding is considered especially effective in reducing livestock depredations by diverting bears from pastures and meeting their protein needs. In Slovenia, year-round supplementary feeding of bears with livestock carrion and corn was intensive and in some areas practiced for over 100 years. However, in 2004 the use of livestock carrion was banned in accordance with European Union regulations. This provided an opportunity to study the effects of carrion feeding on livestock depredations by bears. We used sheep as they represented 97% of all depredation events by brown bears in Slovenia. We analyzed whether bears selectively used carrion feeding stations over corn feeding stations (i.e., indicating that carrion might be more effective in diverting bears from sheep pastures) during 1994–2011, and compared the annual frequency and seasonal distribution of sheep depredations 5 years before and after the ban on livestock carrion feeding during 1999–2009. We found no support that bears selected carrion feeding sites over feeding sites with corn. When controlled for changes in bear and sheep numbers, there was no indication that the ban on carrion feeding increased sheep depredations. Moreover, complementary data indicated that natural protein sources were considerably more important than livestock carrion and that use of carrion peaked in spring, when sheep are rarely outdoors and thus unavailable for depredation. Because of the observed lack of effectiveness, high costs, and potential negative side-effects, we discourage supplemental feeding with livestock carrion to reduce livestock depredations.
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Vol. 24 • No. 2