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26 October 2021 American residents' knowledge of brown bear safety and appropriate human behavior
John M. Nettles, Matthew T. J. Brownlee, David S. Jachowski, Ryan L. Sharp, Jeffery C. Hallo
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Abstract

The popularity of viewing wildlife, specifically brown bears (Ursus arctos), is increasing rapidly throughout North America. In addition, population distributions of both humans and brown bears are expanding, creating larger areas of overlap and increased possibility of human–bear interactions. Unfortunately, many who encounter brown bears may have never received any form of bear safety training or education. As a result, it is important for wildlife and park managers to understand the general level of bear safety knowledge and identify potential areas of improvement. To do so, this study employed a quantitative self-assessment questionnaire, distributed online to a representative sample of the American public in October of 2019. The questionnaires asked respondents about their experience viewing bears and then asked them to rate the likelihood of performing several actions as well as the perceived appropriateness of each behavior for 12 different bear viewing scenarios. Of 511 complete responses, 40% reported seeing a wild brown bear but the majority struggled to identify brown versus American black bears (U. americanus) in photographs, suggesting species-specific behavioral recommendations may be ineffective. Further, several factors were significant predictors of an individual's perceived appropriateness of the listed human behaviors, including age, gender identity, source of bear safety information, and experience with bears. Results were then used to develop a set of meaningful recommendations to improve the efficacy of current bear management and safety education. Primary recommendations include the following: 1) Increase the focus on appropriate rather than inappropriate behaviors, explaining the reasoning behind such suggestions; 2) Pay special attention to overly confident individuals or those with more experience; and 3) Use photographs, videos, and virtual reality experiences to better prepare visitors for a range of potential encounter scenarios.

John M. Nettles, Matthew T. J. Brownlee, David S. Jachowski, Ryan L. Sharp, and Jeffery C. Hallo "American residents' knowledge of brown bear safety and appropriate human behavior," Ursus 2021(32e18), 1-16, (26 October 2021). https://doi.org/10.2192/URSUS-D-20-00012.2
Received: 28 April 2020; Accepted: 11 September 2020; Published: 26 October 2021
JOURNAL ARTICLE
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KEYWORDS
bear safety
brown bear
human behavior
human dimensions
human–wildlife conflict
North America
online questionnaire
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