Evaluation of two methods of aversive conditioning on nuisance activity levels of New Hampshire black bear

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Comeau, Nancy A.
Human-wildlife conflicts caused by black bears (Ursus americanus) accessing anthropogenic food sources are an increasing challenge for wildlife managers. During 2007-2009, we tested two commonly used aversive conditioning (AC) methods (rubber buckshot and trained bear hounds) on NH black bears exhibiting persistent nuisance behavior in residential communities. The main objective was to determine the effectiveness of these two AC methods on deterring unwanted behavior by bears. Twenty-two (22) bears were trapped and fitted with VHF/GPS collars. All bears received a soft release with no treatment from day 1-7 (pretreatment period) while each animal was monitored by telemetry and locations were recorded. Bears were equally assigned to a treatment group and were treated each time they were located within a predefined area 8-28 days (treatment period) after capture. Four (4) bears received rubber buckshot treatments on 4-16 occasions and 4 bears were chased/treed 2x each by hounds. Bears chased with hounds traveled a greater average distance (4.3km) from treatment locations than bears shot with rubber buckshot (0.57km). Bears chased with hounds stayed out of the community three times longer than bears hazed with rubber buckshot. The time that elapsed before bears returned to the treatment area averaged 21.9 hours for the hounds group and 7.2 hours for the rubber buckshot group. Neither method was successful in deterring long-term repetitive nuisance activity.