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Type of publication: Journal Article
Type of document: Full Paper

Year: 2014

Authors: Dorresteijn, I; Hanspach, J; Kecskes, A; Latkova, H; Mezey, Z; Sugar, S; von Wehrden, H; Fischer, J

Title: Human-carnivore coexistence in a traditional rural landscape.

Source: Landscape Ecol 2014; 29(7): 1145-1155.

Authors Vetmeduni Vienna:

von Wehrden Henrik

Vetmed Research Units
Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology

Facilitating human-carnivore coexistence is a major conservation concern in human-dominated landscapes worldwide. Useful insights could be gained by studying and understanding the dynamics of human-carnivore coexistence in landscapes in which carnivores and humans have coexisted for a long time. We used a two-pronged approach combining ecological and social data to study coexistence of the brown bear (Ursus arctos) and humans in Transylvania, Romania. First, we surveyed 554 km of walking transects to estimate activity via a bear sign index, namely the proportion of anthills disturbed by bears, and used spatially explicit predictive models to test which biophysical and anthropogenic variables influenced bear activity. Second, we interviewed 86 shepherds and 359 villagers and community representatives to assess conflicts with bears and attitudes of shepherds towards bears. Our interdisciplinary study showed that bears and humans coexisted relatively peacefully despite occasional conflicts. Coexistence appeared to be facilitated by: (1) the availability of large forest blocks that are connected to the source population of bears in the Carpathian Mountains; (2) the use of traditional livestock management to minimize damage from bears; and (3) some tolerance among shepherds to occasional conflict with bears. In contrast, bear activity was unrelated to human settlements, and compensation for livestock losses did not influence people's attitudes toward bears. Our study shows that coexistence of humans and carnivores is possible, even without direct economic incentives. A key challenge for settings with a discontinuous history of human-carnivore coexistence is to reinstate both practices and attitudes that facilitate coexistence.

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