Human-wildlife conflicts impose considerable costs to people and wildlife worldwide. Most research focuses on proximate causes, offering limited generalizable understanding of ultimate drivers. We tested three competing hypotheses (problem individuals, regional population saturation, limited food supply) that relate to underlying processes of human-grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) conflict, using data from British Columbia, Canada, between 1960–2014. We found most support for the limited food supply hypothesis: in bear populations that feed on spawning salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.), the annual number of bears/km2killed due to conflicts with humans increased by an average of 20% (6–32% [95% CI]) for each 50% decrease in annual salmon biomass. Furthermore, we found that across all bear populations (with or without access to salmon), 81% of attacks on humans and 82% of conflict kills occurred after the approximate onset of hyperphagia (July 1st), a period of intense caloric demand. Contrary to practices by many management agencies, conflict frequency was not reduced by hunting or removal of problem individuals. Our finding that a marine resource affects terrestrial conflict suggests that evidence-based policy for reducing harm to wildlife and humans requires not only insight into ultimate drivers of conflict, but also management that spans ecosystem and jurisdictional boundaries.
Artelle, K. A. et al. Ecology of conflict: marine food supply affects human-wildlife interactions on land. Sci. Rep. 6, 25936; doi: 10.1038/srep25936 (2016).