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Human-wildlife conflicts are a major challenge for wildlife management owing to the rapid expansion of settlement growth into wilderness. Research has been conducted on human development impacts on the overall survival of wildlife, as well as wildlife feedback (such as movement and other behavior) at the forefront of conflicts. Public attitudes toward wildlife conservation have also been explored for a better understanding of human-wildlife conflicts. In Florida, human-black bear interactions have been investigated over decades; however, the human socio-demographic dimension of conflicts was generally missing from the previous research. This study is among the first attempts to explore the increase in human-Florida black bear conflicts, measured by the count of bear calls, through the examination of call data in relation to human demographic trends, settlement growth, and bear habitat distribution. The study area covers the Apalachicola Bear Management Unit (BMU), which saw a tremendous increase in bear calls during the last decade. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Bear Management Program, which is responsible for managing the conflict calls received, the number climbed approximately 20 folds from 1999 to 2009. Factors contributed to such increasing human-bear interactions in the Apalachicola BMU have not been fully investigated and understood. My hypothesis was that the number of bear calls is correlated with caller's proximity to bear habitats and conservation areas, neighborhood's demographic status (such as population densities, population age structures, and household income levels), and the newly developed residents. Demographic, residential, and bear habitat data were collected and compiled at two spatial scales, i.e., by counties and by Census block groups. Three different generalized linear models, including Poisson loglinear regression, negative binomial regression, and binary logistic regression, were used to detect relationships between the count of bear calls and predictor variables at the Census block group level. Results indicate that (1) the call number increased significantly with the shorter distance to conservation areas for all three models; (2) two age groups (0-17 and 35-59) appeared to be negatively related to the count of bear calls according to the Poisson loglinear and negative binomial regressions, which means block groups with lower percentage of juniors and middle-aged population tended to be places with higher call numbers; (3) although density of new residents did not stand out as a significant predictor for the count of bear calls, higher percentage of new multi-family homes was found to contribute to the increased number of bear calls in the Poisson loglinear regression analysis. The results showed that block groups with higher percentage of new multi-family homes near a conservation area are more likely to have bear calls and hence should be a focus of FWC's public outreach and education program. This study contributes to knowledge of human-wildlife conflicts by integrating dynamics of human socio-demographics and settlement development. Methodology may be applied to other areas of Florida to identify the statewide trend of human-bear conflict and to provide scientific reference and guide for FWC's bear management practice. The more knowledge wildlife researchers and managers have in regards to human-wildlife interactions the better informed they will be when making decisions affecting both humans and wildlife.
A Thesis submitted to the Department of Geography in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science.
Includes bibliographical references.
Tingting Zhao, Professor Directing Thesis; Mark Horner, Committee Member; J. Anthony Stallins, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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