While protected areas encompass ~15% of Earth’s terrestrial surface and serve an important role in wildlife conservation, most wildlife occur outside protected areas and are subject to varying degrees of human disturbance. In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, for example, American black bears (Ursus americanus) are relatively common across the forested landscape despite a rapidly growing outdoor recreation industry (e.g., mountain biking, snow biking, snowmobiling, hiking). As a highly mobile, opportunistic species with a large home range, increased human activity across the landscape has the potential to affect black bear spatial and temporal activity, as well as reduce their period of inactivity (i.e., hibernation) which may lead to an increase in human-bear conflicts. As such, our goal is to investigate how landscape (e.g., land cover type, distance to water) and anthropogenic (e.g., human presence, recreating type, infrastructure) factors influence black bear occupancy, detection probability, and activity patterns across the urban-wildland interface before and after hibernation. To accomplish our goals, we deployed 30 trail cameras across a 60km2 study area that includes multi-use lands managed by MI-Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy and Hancock Timber Management Group in Marquette County, MI. Preliminary results indicate black bear occurrence at 23 camera sites (~77%), and an increase in activity following hibernation in the spring. Though analyses are ongoing, we expect to find that peak black bear activity not only differs seasonally, but also differs based on peak human activity and the type of activity being performed. Understanding black bear responses to human recreation patterns across the urban-wildland interface may provide useful information for minimizing human-mediated disturbance of this common, wide-ranging carnivore.
Dr. Diana Lafferty
Faculty Advisor Email
Hubbard, Tru M. and Hawthorn, Mitchell C., "Human Recreation Influences American Black Bear Occupancy and Activity Across the Rural-Highland Interface" (2021). Celebration of Student Scholarship. 21.