Managing human-wildlife conflicts is an ongoing concern in many areas due to growing human populations that result in more frequent wildlife encounters and ethical and conservation concerns have led to an increased demand for non-lethal management actions, like translocation.
Translocation (i.e. capturing an animal and releasing it at a different location within its geographic range) is a widely used non-lethal tool to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts, particularly for carnivores.
Multiple factors may influence translocation success, but the influence of landscape characteristics of release sites and the nuisance behavior patterns of translocated wildlife are poorly understood, with few studies estimating the probability of translocation success under different scenarios.
Javan Bauder, a postdoctoral research associate at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) and Max Allen, a wildlife ecologist at INHS, analyzed data from 1,462 translocations of 1,293 black bears in Wisconsin from 1979 to 2016, evaluating translocation success based on repeated nuisance behavior and the probability of returning to a previous capture location.
They published their findings in the journal Wildlife Research.
“We analyzed the data looking at the age of the bear, sex, how far the bear was moved, etc., but we also wanted to look at the landscape context, which we discovered to have an influence on the success of translocation among the bears.” Bauder said.
Bauder and Allen ultimately found that landscape plays a significant role in successfully translocating black bears.
“Bears translocated to areas with a greater proportion of agriculture were more likely to return than bears translocated to more forested areas,” said Bauder. “Using these data we were able to make predictions of translocation success based on the landscape context of potential release areas.”
Bauder notes that being able to tie in information about the bears, landscape, and using the data to give predictions and recommendations can help wildlife managers decide what role translocation should play in management efforts.
“This work helps managers become aware of habitat needs in order to develop successful translocation practices,” Bauder said. “Being able to have statistical models or predicted outcomes in different landscapes can ultimately help set expectations of translocation success based on the available landscape features in a given management area.”
This research was funded by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Illinois Natural History Survey, and the University of Illinois.
The Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) is a division of the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.