Impact of Human Activity on Black Bear Habitats in the Western Great Basin

The Western Great Basin in Nevada is home to a small, but expanding, population of black bears that is recolonizing habitats which they left due to overhunting and deforestation. Black bears are large omnivorous mammals that require a lot of space. Human activity in the Great Basin is widespread, with increased recreational use, and landscapes being transformed by deforestation and development. This often leads to conflicts between people and bears, sometimes resulting in bears being euthanized by the wildlife authorities.

Understanding the Impact of Human Activity on Black Bear Ecology 

We are working in the Western Great Basin to better understand how human activity might impact black bear ecology, and how wildlife management can protect both humans and wildlife.

Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant with a sedated black bear
Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant with a tranquilized black bear (Ursus americanus) trapped in Lake Tahoe region of Nevada during field work trip. © Peter Houlihan CBC/AMNH

The foundation of our work is focused on analyzing the connectivity of habitats for black bears in the region based on statistical models. This includes attaching collars equipped with GPS trackers on bears to collect data on current ecological patterns, such as movements, habitat selection, and hibernation behavior.

Using biodiversity informatics approaches, we apply cutting-edge computing techniques to create models that allow us to make predictions of how these patterns might change under future scenarios, such as an increase in bear population. This information will help us answer conservation questions regarding black bears and support sound wildlife management policies.

Watch Urban Bears - Keeping Nevada's Bears Wild! to learn more about how black bears move across the land in search of human sources of food in Nevada (by NineCaribou Productions). 

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