Occurrence of Large Carnivores Near Settlements: a Review of Mechanisms and Preventive Measures
July 3, 2019
We have reviewed the scientific literature regarding mechanisms behind, and preventive measures against, the occurrence of Scandinavian large carnivores (lynx, wolves and brown bears) near human settlements, and evaluated its management implications for Scandinavia. The occurrence of lynx close to settlement depends on the distribution of roe deer, its main wild prey in Scandinavia. Male lynx are generally closer to settlements than females, but during winter all categories may approach settlements to exploit the aggregation of roe deer near agricultural lands. Young wolves exhibiting exploratory movements, especially during dispersal from natal areas, may have an increased potential for occurring near settlements. In brown bears, subadults and females with dependent offspring are more often occurring near settlements than adult males, but not because of searching for food, but because of dispersal and avoidance of dominant conspecifics by predation-vulnerable individuals. In contrast to lynx and wolves, omnivorous bears can readily exploit human derived foods and have thus a potential for becoming food conditioned. We found no study evaluating the effectiveness of preventive measures when dealing with large carnivores near settlements. Several studies deal with livestock depredation and preventing large carnivore access to human derived food sources. Some of these studies might be relevant when preventing large carnivore occurrence near settlements. However, the general pattern among large carnivores to avoid settlements indicates that human habituation and food conditioning are uncommon behaviors in Scandinavia. The occasional occurrence of large carnivores near settlements is in general a consequence of intrinsic processes like dispersal in young animals, seeking prey or shelter from conspecifics, and should not be seen as un-natural behavior.
Author(s): Marcus Elfström and Ole-Gunnar Støen