Non-lethal bear management employs negative conditioning to modify unwanted bear behavior and avoid having to compromise human safety or destroy the animal.
Bears are intelligent creatures that have the ability to learn from both positive and negative experiences.
When a bear approaches people or populated areas and finds human foods, and little immediate danger, chances are it will return. Each successful visit, without anything negative happening to the bear, reinforces this behavior.
Aversion techniques are designed to convince the bear to leave the area permanently by associating humans and populated areas with negative experiences so individual bears will be less likely to return to the area in the future. Human food attractants need to be removed for aversive conditioning to be at all effective. Aversive conditioning is time-consuming and needs to be consistently applied, both giving pause to some state wildlife agencies. Read a guide to non-lethal black bear management.
Non-lethal tools, including rubber bullets, pyrotechnics, noisemakers and specially-trained Karelian Bear Dogs help reinforce the negative conditioning. State wildlife agencies in Montana, Nevada, Washington and California have Karelian Bear Dog Programs in place. Read more about Karelian Bear Dogs:
- Wind River Bear Institute: Karelian Bear Dogs, Bear Shepherding
- Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife: Karelian Bear Dog Program
- Nevada Dept. of Wildlife: Karelian Bear Dog Program
Watch video of the use of Karelian Bear Dogs, courtesy Wind River Bear Institute.
aversive conditioning: a learning process in which deterrents are continually and consistently administered to a bear to reduce the frequency of an undesirable behavior. – Human-Bear Management Lexicon, Hopkins et al. 2010
Banner photo courtesy: Nevada Department of Wildlife
Non-lethal photo courtesy: Bow Valley WildSmart