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Misconceptions, Ironies, and Uncertainties regarding Trends in Bear Populations: Invited Paper

David L. Garshelis
Ursus
Vol. 13 (2002), pp. 321-334
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3873213
Page Count: 14
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Misconceptions, Ironies, and Uncertainties regarding Trends in Bear Populations: Invited Paper
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Abstract

Despite our rapidly increasing knowledge of bears, there are few places in the world where we really know how bear populations are faring. I argue that bear conservation would benefit by highlighting rather than hiding this uncertainty. Assessments of bear populations often are based on records of dead animals and trends in habitat availability. These data produce dubious indications of population trend. Case studies relating to the trade in bear parts, sport harvests, and nuisance kills indicate that records of human-killed bears may not be accurate and may not necessarily reflect changes in population size. Increasing bear populations may continue to rise with increased levels of human exploitation (as long as it is below the maximum sustainable take), whereas declining populations may continue to plummet despite reduced exploitation. Similarly, whereas loss of habitat (forest area) probably engenders a decline (of unknown magnitude) in bear populations, unchanging or increasing forested area may not necessarily result in stable or increasing bear numbers. Ironically, bear populations that have been managed for sustained harvests have generally fared better than populations in which hunting has been prohibited, mainly because the former better controls illicit hunting than the latter. Long-term conservation of bears requires better information on population trends, but better techniques are unlikely to be developed if faults and inadequacies of current data are not clearly recognized.

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