Using habitat suitability and landscape connectivity in the spatial prioritization of public outreach and management during carnivore recolonization.

Published online
14 Jun 2022
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Boudreau, M. R. & Gantchoff, M. G. & Ramirez-Reyes, C. & Conlee, L. & Belant, J. L. & Iglay, R. B.
Contact email(s)

Publication language
Missouri & USA


Despite continued global declines in large carnivore abundance and distribution, some species are recovering. In North America, these recoveries can occur in large areas of suitable habitat in or near areas of human development, increasing the likelihood of human-carnivore conflicts. Understanding the intersection among habitat suitability, connectivity and human-carnivore conflicts can aid in conflict prevention and mitigation. We used GPS collar data from 97 bears and conflict reports collected from 1991 to 2020 to examine black bear Ursus americanus habitat suitability and landscape connectivity in relation to community-level human-bear conflict occurrences and conflict rates in Missouri, USA. We used conflict-landscape relationships to predict potential community-level human-bear conflicts given black bear recolonization. Suitable habitat for black bears comprised about 29% of Missouri and was predominantly forest and shrub cover with low habitat fragmentation and human density, and greater spring vegetation productivity. Landscape connectivity was greatest in south-central Missouri with limited connectivity in northern and eastern portions of the state. Conflict rates were low (61 of 94 communities had 1-2 reported conflicts over 30 years), increased 6.5-fold from 2000 to 2020, and 75% involved black bear use of anthropogenic food. The presence and rate of conflicts increased with greater amounts of suitable habitat, landscape connectivity and community size, with conflict rate also positively associated with patch density and aggregation and negatively associated with patch area. Of 1,010 communities in Missouri, we identified 99 communities with increased risk of human-bear conflicts based on surrounding landscape characteristics. Synthesis and applications. Our framework integrating landscape attributes and conflict reports can successfully identify communities at greater potential of human-carnivore conflict. In our Missouri case study, we identified 99 out of 1,010 communities which have increased risk of human-bear conflicts, knowledge which will increase the efficiency of education and mitigation rollouts as black bears re-establish. This framework allows managers to identify communities at greater risk of conflict for many conflict-prone species and helps prioritize communities for education and conflict mitigation actions, facilitating long-term coexistence.

Key words