We examined the occurrence of brown bear (Ursus arctos) in Finland by using hunter-provided observations and harvest data for 1992–2004. We calculated a simple index (bears observed/all observation cards) from observation cards filled annually by nearly 5,000 moose hunting clubs. This occurrence index was treated as a dependent variable in a mixed regression model to examine differences between regions and periods. Both region and period effects were significant. The index was highest in the eastern region of Finland, followed by central, northern, and western Finland. Trends provided evidence of population growth during the first 9 years of the study and then a slight decline in all regions. There was no two-way interaction between region and period, suggesting that trends were similar among regions. The observation index was best related to former harvest rate with 3 years' time lag. The levelling off and the recent slight decline in central and western Finland implies that the population has not met the target set by a government working group in 1996 of a substantial increase in these regions. We suggest that harvest rates should be kept at the very low levels of recent years in eastern and central Finland. In particular, females in central Finland will need to be more effectively protected before the goals set by the working group can be achieved.
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Vol. 17 • No. 2