Monitoring and management of the Swedish brown bear (Ursus arctos) population
Abstract: For society, there is a constant need for scientifically based information to successfully manage bear populations. In Sweden, the brown bear (Ursus arctos) population is increasing and expanding after that successful conservation measures was employed during the 20th century. Two important issues in management are to understand how bears use their habitat, at different spatial- and temporal scales, and to estimate size and trend of the population at various scales. The central aim of this thesis was to provide management authorities with knowledge and methods for monitoring and managing the Swedish brown bear population. We have used radio-marked bears to determine the use of habitats at two different spatial- and temporal scales. To obtain population trends we used bear observations and to estimate population size we identified individual bears from DNA in collected scats and calculated the total number of bears with Capture-Mark-Recapture methods. These data were obtained with the help of volunteers and covered, in principle, the total bear range in Sweden. We estimate the Swedish brown bear population to 3,298 (2,968-3,667) individuals in 2008, and the yearly increase in the bear population to be 4.5% during the period 1998 to 2007. We show that bears prefer forest habitat in rugged terrain >10 km from towns or resorts. Bears located within 10 km of human settlements are mainly younger individuals. Bears habitat selection differs between active and resting periods. They are more active during nocturnal and crepuscular hours and rest during the daytime. My results provide management authorities with information on distribution, population size and trends of the brown bear population in Sweden, at national as well as regional scales. We have introduced and verified a method for monitoring bears, the Large Carnivore Observation Index, based on effort corrected observations of bears during hunting. We show that the bears use habitats that are further away from humans and that their use differs between sex and age groups. I recommend that the monitoring and management of bears should be carried out from an adaptive management perspective, where methods and the effects of different decisions should be continuously evaluated. For the future management of bears in Sweden, managers need good information about bear ecology, demography, and the perception of the human dimension.
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