An Analysis of Human Perceptions of the American Black Bear
The American black bear (Ursus americanus) is known to be a very adaptable mammal. Historically black bear populations were distributed across most of North America. The early 1900s had no restrictions on hunting or managing black bears, eventually extirpating them from many U.S. states. By 1972 black bears were a protected animal in many areas, resulting in population and distribution growth. At the same time, human populations have been increasing steadily over the past few decades. As both populations grow and land becomes more limited, humans and black bears are required to live in closer proximity than before. Sightings are now being reported in states that have not had bears for decades and an increasing number of incident reports are reported to local agencies across North America. Human perception surveys about black bears help convey whether they are accepted by society, if they are considered a nuisance, and whether local wildlife agencies need to create a better management plan. In this project human perception studies from Tennessee and Florida were evaluated to see which factors influence local perception of black bears. Data sets were provided by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Chi-square tests were run to see which responses were significant. The results suggest that most individuals are supportive of both bears themselves and the agencies managing them. As both populations and incidents continue to increase, it will become important for local agencies to have good management plans in place to prepare for such occurrences. Results from this study can help determine how residents feel toward bears and how management plans can be structured across North America.
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