To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society. -Theodore Roosevelt

B&C Fellow - Jerod Merkle


As urban areas increase in size because of human population growth, habitat for wildlife is decreasing. Although black bears generally avoid areas of high human use, they have discovered how to exploit some urban areas to obtain resources. As a result, human-black bear conflicts increased, and wildlife management agencies often respond to and manage these incidents. Agencies across black bear range spend significant amounts of time and money dealing with black bear issues within urban areas. Results from this project will provide information about human-black bear conflicts.

Our research will provide an understanding of when and where urban black bear sightings and conflicts occur, the attitudes of Missoula, Montana residents towards urban black bears, and the habitat use, movement, and behavior of black bears that live in and around Missoula. This three pronged approach will provide information regarding when and where preventative actions should be administered, the attitudes of people in conflict areas, and the factors that predict when and why black bears are in town.

First, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has been collecting data on public black bear sightings since 2003. We will analyze these data for patterns and predict when and where conflicts and sightings occur. Second, we have sent out a public survey to a sample of random residents of Missoula to sample attitudes of residents. Once all returned surveys are analyzed, we will contrast results with a 2004 study, allowing the comparison of human attitudes over time and between areas within Missoula. Third, approximately 10 global positioning system radio collars will be fitted to adult and subadult female black bears that use the urban area of Missoula. Collars will collect 8 locations per day. Collared bears will be monitored, and areas where bears repeatedly visit will be assessed. 

As of 13 October 2008, we have begun to analyze the sightings data. Completed surveys are being returned from residents, and we are organizing the data for analysis. We are also 5 weeks into our trapping season. We have caught 11 bears (eight male, 3 female). We have collared two of the females; however one bear slipped the collar soon after collaring. We will continue trapping for female bears until denning season begins.


Jerod Merkle
University of Montana

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"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt