Human Wildlife Interactions and Conflict Management


  • White-Footed Mice Ecology and Impacts on Tick Treatment in Suburban, Maryland
  • Grace F. Hummell; Jennifer M. Mullinax
    White-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) are a known reservoir and host species for ticks and tick-borne diseases. Efficiency and effectiveness of baited tick treatment are important for controlling infectious disease transmission and spread via wildlife. Investigating mouse movements and home ranges can give insight regarding the use and efficiency of baited tick treatments. In three Howard County parks in Maryland, we used Sherman traps for live capture and Holohil BD-2XC Very High Frequency (VHF) collars for the tracking of mice. Parks were trapped 2-5 nights from April to October 2018-2019. There was a total of 110 telemetry nights and 136 mice tracked over the two years. Across all parks, there were 32,000 trapping events. Baited tick treatments (Select TCS Bait Box) were placed along the edge of the park property against 30 or more homeowner yards per park. In total, 166 bait boxes were deployed in the field. Home ranges and movements where calculate to determine the use of treatment. Mice total and core home range areas were calculated using Minimum Convex Polygons (MCP) and adaptive kernels. Within in home ranges, 33 bait boxes were found in total home ranges and 14 in the core home ranges. Home range centroid distance and distance from the edge of home range to bait boxes were also calculated as a measured parameter for future integrated pest management. Our findings indicate mice do use baited tick treatments, but density, territory, and placement of bait boxes all play a role in overall use in a population. We recommend placing bait boxes in a curvilinear transect or having treatments placed on the edge of properties as well as along the trails or the interior of the woods, thereby creating access to a larger portion of the mouse population in the area.

  • A Modest Survey of the Harris Mud Crab at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge in Sherman, Texas*
  • Courtney Anderson; Pat Stephen-Williams
    As the conservation industry loses funding across agencies, such as the USFWS, professionals will need to come up with creative ways to involve non-position funded sources for invasive species control. This study focused on using trained volunteers (Master Naturalists), by a biological professional, in the collection of the invasive mud crab by two methods, trapping and visual survey. The purpose of this study is to add to the literature in the USFWS about certain attributes of R. harrisii at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge. The objectives were to determine a population presence or absence, discover effectiveness of trap methods versus visual surveys with volunteers, and establish a citizen science protocol for future monitoring of Rhithropanopeus harrisii in Lake Texoma, specific Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge in Sherman, TX. Results will be used to validate that citizen science projects aimed at reducing invasive species can be equally as effective as biology professionals in the field can. This study will produce a template for other biological professionals to use in training volunteers for similar invasive species removal projects.

  • Living Alongside Alligators: Investigating Human-Alligator Relationships in South Carolina Coastal Communities*
  • Colleen Goff; Alexis Greulich; Carissa Tice; Caitlyn Ward; Anjelika Kidd-Weaver; Catherine Bodinof Jachowski
    American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) are large, predatory reptiles that live in the southeastern United States. Where residential areas overlap alligator habitat, alligators and humans can become habituated to each other. While alligator attacks are rare, habituation increases the risk of injurious human-alligator interactions, especially when alligators associate humans with food. We sought to investigate trends in alligator behavior by evaluating the support for two hypotheses: 1) Alligators become less wary of humans as they grow. 2) Urbanization favors alligators that are less wary of humans. We conducted flight initiation distance (FID) surveys on alligators of various size classes in five residential communities of South Carolina. In this study, FID is defined as the minimal distance to an approaching human that an alligator will tolerate before fleeing. We used simple linear regression to assess the effects of urbanization level and alligator size class on alligator FID. The results failed to support our first hypothesis as flight distance did not vary by alligator size class. In support of our second hypothesis, flight distance decreased as the percentage of developed land use increased. These results suggest that, within our study areas, alligators living in more urban areas may be more habituated to humans than alligators living in less urban areas regardless of their size. These results will be used in future research to gain a better understanding of alligator behavior in residential areas and how to better manage urban alligator populations.

  • The Effect of Urbanization on Roosting and Nesting Site Selection and Nesting Success of Black and Turkey Vultures in the Charlotte Metropolitan Area*
  • Hannah C. Partridge; Sara A. Gagne
    Land cover changes that result from increasing urbanization alter habitat types, structures, and resource availability on local and global scales. For vultures, urbanization may have both positive and negative impacts, with roadkill offering increased foraging opportunities and habitat loss and disturbance reducing roosting and nesting success. We examined how landscape and local features affect roosting and nesting success of black vultures (Coragyps atratus) and turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) in the Charlotte Metropolitan Area, predicting that roosting and nesting success will be greater at sites surrounded by higher road densities and more urban land use. We quantified the number of vultures at fifteen permanent roosting sites using monthly early-morning visual counts between November and March 2020 and measured nesting success at fifteen nests as clutch size, predated young, and the number of fledglings using biweekly visual checks between March and August 2020. At each roosting or nesting site, we quantified ground cover, surrounding vegetation, and canopy cover and measured land use and road density in surrounding landscapes. We tested for the effects of weather patterns and local and landscape features on roosting and nesting success using generalized linear models and multi-model inference. Roosting locations show great variability but are associated with little to no canopy cover (less than 25% cover) and high shrub presence (greater than 75% cover) at the base of the roost, perhaps to discourage disturbances such as human and predator activity. Consistently occupied roosts appear to be associated with low disturbance areas or hard to access structures while unstable roosts exhibit more disturbance potential. Final results of models examining the effects of local and landscape features on roosting and nesting success will be presented in order to better understand the associations of vultures within urban areas and to promote healthy relationships between humans and vultures.

  • Investigating the Utility of Negative Conditioning for the Management of Alligators in Human-Dominated Landscapes*
  • Anjelika Kidd-Weaver; Catherine Bodinof Jachowski
    The American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is a large, predatory reptile that is commonly sighted in residential landscapes throughout their range, especially in coastal island communities. Alligators in residential areas are often overly habituated to people, which leads to increasing concerns for negative human-alligator interactions. In this study, we are evaluating the efficacy of negative conditioning to increase alligator wariness of humans in human-dominated areas. We hypothesize that the alligator wariness towards humans will increase after experiencing capture-mark-release events. We are using a “before-after-control-impact” experimental design to compare alligator behavior between treatment (areas where capture-mark-release events occurred) and control areas (where alligators were not captured) at three study sites in coastal South Carolina. We assessed alligators’ wariness of humans in February 2020 (before treatment) and April (after treatment) using flight initiation distance (FID) surveys in which a human walked towards an alligator until it responded. We conducted treatment in March 2020, by capturing as many alligators as possible in areas assigned to the negative conditioning treatment. For alligators that were successfully captured, we restrained the alligator, recorded morphometric measurements, applied tags and permanent markers for later identification, and released the alligator at the site of capture. After data collection is completed in April, we will be assessing the difference in mean alligator FID of control and treatment areas in each study site. We predict mean alligator FID to be greater in treatment areas during “after” FID surveys compared to control areas and “before” surveys. In residential landscapes, capture-mark-release events are likely the closest to a near-death experience that alligators will ever experience. If our hypothesis is supported, communities could establish negative conditioning programs to manipulate alligator behavior and increase the safety of both residents and alligators in their communities.

  • Coyote Response to Novel Objects in Urban and Rural Ecosystems*
  • Grayson Cahal; Shane McKenzie; Stanley Gehrt
    In recent years coyotes (Canis latrans) have expanded their range and appear to be highly adaptable to urban ecosystems. With coyotes living in proximity to humans, it is important to understand patterns of human-wildlife interactions and how wildlife behavior may be influenced by urbanization. Our objectives are to compare frequencies of bold-shy behavior between urban and rural sites, and to determine differences across multiple metropolitan areas. This research is part of a large collaborative study designed to evaluate the boldness behavior of coyotes across the country. During summer and autumn 2019, we set up treatment and control sites across urban and rural sites associated with Columbus, Ohio, and Chicago, Illinois. We used remote cameras at each site, and a novel object at treatment sites. The novel object used in this study is four wooded stakes one meter tall arranged into a 1 m2 with paracord string connecting the 4 corners. We recorded coyote visits at 8 of 28 Columbus sites and 17 of 25 Chicago sites. We are currently analyzing coyote videos for responses to novel objects, and comparing these responses between urban and rural sites, and across cities. Future analysis of the videos will examine the coyote behaviors to address the neophobic to neophilic response to novel object stimuli. Behaviors that are considered bold or exploratory will be assessed as neophilic, while shy, anxious individuals will be assessed as neophobic. Ultimately, our work will provide a better understanding of the behavior of an apex predator in urban ecosystems and assist us in managing coexistence between coyotes and humans.

  • Madagascar’s Carnivore Problem- Understanding Socioecological Drives of Human-Wildlife Conflict*
  • Kimberly Rivera
    Human-wildlife conflict is a major concern as human communities continue to expand, increasing their interactions with native habitats and wildlife. One negative interaction is the depredation of livestock by carnivores and the subsequent retaliatory killing of the presumed predating species. This global phenomenon has not been studied and managed ubiquitously, therefore leaving underserved human and ecological communities at higher risk of conflict, such as those found in Madagascar. Limited studies conducted in Madagascar indicate there may be important independent variables which impact rates of depredation, but these findings are confounded by their reliance on recall survey data. To elucidate the validity of these findings, we use interviews and camera trap surveys to evaluate the perceived and realized rates of depredation on poultry. We evaluate how landcover metrics, such as the percent forest cover, human infrastructure (density of households), and the absence/presence of cats and dog may impact these rates. Habitat metrics and human infrastructure are calculated using Google Earth and ArcGIS while dog and cat presence are quantified through photographic data collected in the field. We hypothesize that realized and perceived depredation rates differ. We evaluate our hypotheses using generalized linear models; we expect that increasing forest cover and the absence of cats and dogs living near poultry coops increase the realized rate of depredation. We also hypothesize that increased infrastructure will decrease perceived and realized rates of depredation.

  • Best Management Practices and Current Status of Dog-Hunting for White-Tailed Deer in the Southeastern United States
  • Gino J. D’Angelo; Thomas J. Prebyl; David A. Osborn; Jacalyn P. Rosenberger
    Hunting white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) with dogs has been steeped in tradition and controversy. Today in the United States, dog-deer hunting for white-tailed deer only occurs in 9 states of the Southeast. We reviewed hunting regulations and primary literature, interviewed state-agency biologists, and simulated deer movements on national forests in Mississippi to investigate the current status of dog-deer hunting and develop recommendations for best practices to manage methods associated with the tradition. Our study revealed many inconsistencies regarding how states regulate deer hunting with dogs. Dog trespass onto unauthorized properties was the most common complaint that each state’s wildlife agency received from disgruntled landowners and hunters. Hunter permitting and registration requirements have made hunters more accountable for trespass and were beneficial based on the perceptions of state agencies of fewer public complaints. The results of our simulations indicated that the 50th, 70th, and 90th percentiles of the expected maximum distances travelled by deer during dog-deer hunts to be 1.9 km, 2.3 km, and 2.7 km, respectively. In turn, we expect hunts would need to be limited to areas >1.9 km from property boundaries to ensure 50% of hunts are completely contained on a specific property, >2.3 km to ensure 70% containment, or >2.7 km to ensure 90% containment. When excursions by deer were eliminated from simulations, the expected distances required to contain 50, 70, and 90% of hunts were reduced ≥52% to 0.88 km, 1.06 km, 1.34 km respectively. We recommend: 1) developing plans for consistent communication among agencies and stakeholders; 2) allowing dog-deer hunting where the practice is accepted culturally; 3) developing and enforcing permit systems to ensure hunter accountability; and 4) encouraging or requiring tracking and correction collars on dogs to reduce trespass.

  • Are University’s Adequately Preparing Undergraduate Wildlife Students to Meet Employer Needs?*
  • Trevon Strange; Dr. Terry Messmer; Dr. Jessica Tegt; Dr. Frederick Cunningham
    Demand for diversely skilled wildlife biologists and higher-level scientific researchers in the wildlife profession are projected to grow at a high rate over the next 10 years. However, graduating students are not meeting the skill-set requirements that professional wildlife agencies are looking for in new hires. This research in progress examines the performance gap between university wildlife programs, wildlife agencies, and student expectations. I am evaluating undergraduate wildlife curricula offered at 43 accredited universities listed on the National Association of University Fisheries and Wildlife Programs (NAUFWP) and comparing their programs to see if they meet the qualifications for a federal series standard 0486-wildlife biologist. Concurrent to the curricula analysis, two surveys are being administered to wildlife agencies and students. The first survey will assess the employee knowledge and skill-sets desired by state and federal agencies that hire wildlife biologists. The second survey was sent out to 40 undergraduate student chapters of The Wildlife Society at the accredited universities on the NAUFWP list, to assess their personal learning and professional goals. The data from this survey will help identify performance gaps that exist between university programming, and wildlife agency needs for high-level job performance. Surveys are being distributed online using a modified Dillman survey design method and surveys will be analyzed in the statistical package for social science (SPSS). Results from the surveys will demonstrate where gaps exist between university preparation of students for professional success, and what the professional agencies expect. Based on the assessment of the data I will produce a tool that provides recommendations to close the gap and create skilled and marketable students.

  • Development of a Cost-Effective, Versatile Feral Pig Trap
  • Anthony DeNicola
    Feral pigs (Sus scrofa) have become a serious threat to ecological systems and pose risks to agricultural activities and livestock health throughout the world. The successful control of any invasive species requires a removal method that places a very high percentage of the target population at risk. The continued proliferation of feral pig populations within the United States shows that current control efforts and methods have failed in this regard. Current feral pig trapping strategies focus heavily on “smart” corral traps constructed from materials such as welded fence panels and steel tubing. While these traps are effective, they have significant limitations that prohibit their ability to provide landscape-scale control. These limitations include; 1) high up-front purchase prices, 2) substantial labor costs for setup, trap management, and relocation, 3) challenging transportation logistics (i.e., trucks and trailers), and 4) impractical siting needs (i.e., must be situated on relatively even terrain, and require access to a cellular network). Therefore, it is unlikely that this trap configuration will be widely distributed and gain enough market penetration to endanger a high enough percentage of pigs across their range to effect meaningful control. A new trapping strategy is needed that fits the following criteria; 1) simplified, 2) adaptable, 3) efficient, and 4) cost-effective. Our objectives were to 1) increase feral pig trapping capacity of landowners by increasing the number of pig traps on the landscape and in areas where current smart traps are technologically limited, 2) decrease the labor and equipment required to tend traps, and 3) reduced trap costs. We have developed a feral pig trapping system that fits all of the above criteria.

  • Measuring the Effects of Urbanization Compared to Human Behavior on Wildlife Species Occurence*
  • Brittney Palode; Dana J. Morin; Adam T. Rohnke; Kevin M. Hunt
    Urban features, altered habitat composition, and human behaviors can all impact wildlife occurrence and increase human-wildlife interactions, but the degree to which each are correlated or individually influence the occurrence of different species is still in question. Thus, it is not possible to know how changing human behavior or altering human-dominated landscapes might mitigate conflicts. To address this question, we are using camera traps at 60 sites within parks, cemeteries, golf courses, and green spaces in the Jackson, Mississippi metropolitan area over one month to record species occurrence. Following the Urban Wildlife Information Network (UWIN) protocol, two transects extend from the urban center of Jackson to outer suburban neighborhoods. At each camera site we are measuring habitat features and recording visual observations and proximity of potential food resources (natural and anthropogenic). In addition, we are surveying Animal Control and Nuisance Wildlife Control Officers to identify species and human behaviors that are commonly reported in human-wildlife conflict in Jackson. We are conducting human dimension surveys with residents and businesses within a 200m radius of each camera trap to quantify behaviors that may influence wildlife occurrence. We will extract landscape configuration covariates from existing Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data to create covariates related to habitat configuration. We will use occupancy models and model selection criteria to compare the effects of landscape features, habitat configuration, and human behaviors on the occupancy of identified mammal species to assess how modifying human behaviors or urban landscapes could reduce human-wildlife conflict in Jackson. We expect to find that landscape configuration and urban features will most impact occurrence of specialist species, whereas generalists species and those that can avoid or tolerate humans will be most influenced by human behaviors that increase available resources.

  • Underlying Social Conflicts Drive Human-Wildlife Conflict in Laikipia County, Kenya
  • Mackenzie Goode
    Now understood as one of the most critical threats to many wildlife species, human-wildlife conflict receives increasing attention from an array of disciplines. Recent findings remind us that direct wildlife damage is not, in fact, the main driver of this conflict. Instead, human-wildlife conflict is likely the result of, or a manifestation of, underlying social conflicts. In Laikipia County, Kenya, a biodiversity hotspot and mosaic landscape of private wildlife conservancies and farms of various scale, drivers of conflict are not well-understood. Small-scale farmers experience a physical and emotional burden as a result of crop raiding damage by primarily elephants and baboons. In-depth semi-structured interviews with small-scale farmers revealed complex attitudes towards wildlife. Both interviews and participant observation uncovered a deep mistrust in institutions, such as the country’s wildlife agency and neighboring conservancies, and unresolved conflicts between farmers and Maasai pastoralists. Frequently, farmers reported having been denied monetary compensation for crop losses as a result of possessing too little acreage, only exacerbating mistrust in institutions. One innovative mitigation strategy employed by a large-scale farm in the area was presented to participants for feedback. Participants suggested that such a strategy to mitigate crop raiding would not address the pressing local issues described in interviews. Thus, as other studies predict, this context likely requires a multi-faceted approach to tackling human-wildlife conflict–an approach which encompasses short-term solutions for direct wildlife damage but also long-term mediation between social groups.

  • An Assessment of Intention to Visit Wildlife Management Areas in Tennessee*
  • Clara Shattuck; Neelam C. Poudyal; Cristina Watkins
    Maintaining visitation of public lands including wildlife management areas (WMAs) is critical to land managers in order to continue conservation efforts and offer recreation opportunities. Visitation can have a variety of influences on support for and maintenance of WMAs. Decline in fee revenue due to low visitation has direct influence on funding for conservation and facility operation, and visitors also bring in expenditures that can have significant economic impacts in terms of jobs, tax revenue, wages, etc. in rural communities. WMAs are public lands set aside for wildlife conservation, education and recreation and differ from other kinds of public lands in their relative size, proximity to rural areas, and types of outdoor activities allowed. While there have been many studies investigating visitation constraints at other types of public lands, no study has looked at this issue for WMAs.
    Results from a mixed-mode survey of 3,037 sportspersons (response rate = 30.40%) conducted in 2019 showed that having access to private property (51%), being able to lease land for recreation (28%), and WMAs being too crowded (23%) were major reasons for not visiting WMAs. Results also indicated that WMA conditions that would be most likely to encourage more visitation if improved upon were having good chances of harvesting lots of big game or fish (73%), having good chances of harvesting trophy game or fish (71%), and less crowded hunting opportunities (66%). This study seeks to use these results along with socioeconomic data to investigate whether and how these factors may influence sportspersons’ intentions to use WMAs. These results provide stakeholders with information on identifying structural and personal barriers and can help managers to better serve the public while ensuring conservation for the future.

  • Repairing Relationships: Providing the Glue to Mend Conservation Management and Public Opinion*
  • Amanda Hartman Medaries; Dustin Ranglack; Melissa Wuellner; Letitia Reichart; Michelle Fleig-Palmer; Pricila Iranah
    Established in 2001, the American Prairie Reserve (APR) is a private non-profit organization whose sole purpose is to create the largest nature reserve within the continental United States. APR wishes to have support of conservation practices; however, local landowners and neighboring communities have not responded positively to APR’s conservation efforts. Thus, APR seeks to determine ways to mend and improve relationships with local landowners and neighboring communities. The objective for this study is to identify ways in which to mend or mitigate a proportion of negative perceptions by local landowners using a systems thinking model approach. APR conducted a public perception survey to evaluate opinions of their current conservation practices. This data, along with socio-economic and management data from APR, will be used to populate a model to look at reinforcing and balancing feedback loops. We predict the model will be able to provide suggestions for how to rebuild relationships and have APR’s conservation practices better well received by local landowners and communities.

  • Defining and Measuring Success of Aversive Conditioning and Hazing Programs for Bears: A Review*
  • Claire Edwards; Sarah Heemskerk; John Paczkowski; Colleen St. Clair
    Human population growth and increasing urbanization are leading to rising human-bear conflict across landscapes where human developments and bear ranges overlap. In many areas, societal tolerance for bears is also increasing, supporting the use of non-lethal techniques for managing human-bear conflict, particularly in threatened populations. Aversive conditioning (hereafter AC) and hazing are behavioural management tools that apply negative stimuli to wild bears with the goal of increasing wariness, decreasing undesired behaviour, and reducing human-caused bear mortality. Although AC and hazing are widely used in North America to mitigate human-bear conflict, there is limited synthesis of the past literature or established metrics with which to design or evaluate the success of these programs. We comprehensively compiled data from 39 research papers on the use of AC and hazing on bears from peer reviewed (n=12) and grey literature sources (n=27). We found that 81% of papers reported success of behavioural management programs with 83% showing short-term (within the same season as management) reduction of conflict behaviour over multi-year reduction or cessation of conflict behaviour (17%). Additionally, behavioural management was more likely to be successful when conducted on lower conflict (habituated vs. food conditioned) bears. We will synthesize and present data on biological, behavioural and management factors that correlate with success of AC and hazing programs. We will synthesize established measures for evaluating that success, and outline methods to increase efficacy of assessment of future programs. Investigating historical trends in behavioural management of human-bear conflict and identifying rigorous and repeatable measures of success for AC and hazing programs can help set reasonable measurements of success for both existing and new programs, advancing non-lethal management practices throughout ranges where bears and people share space.

  • Sex and Age Ratios of Savannah Elephants in Northern Botswana Using Digital Photogrammetry
  • Nate J. Weisenbeck; Arthur Young
    Through progressive conservation management Botswana has earned its reputation as a haven for elephants. It is estimated that the carrying capacity of elephants for the entire country is between 50,000 and 55,000. Botswana’s thriving elephant population in 2016 was estimated to be about 131,626. This explosion in population size was likely due to the three-year hunting ban set in place. Now after years of crop damage, loss of jobs, and loss of a food source the people of Botswana look to regain their lives now that the ban on hunting has been lifted as of the summer of 2019. Botswana is currently facing one of the worst droughts in years. We conducted research to determine the growth rate of the African elephants in Botswana. 1,153 pictures were taken of elephants, but due to visual obstructions only 152 of the photos were usable. We sampled elephants along the Khwai river, Mababe depression, and around the Okavango Delta in the Northwest region of Botswana using a Canon EOS Rebel T5 at both 55mm and 250mm focal lengths. We used photogrammetry to measure the shoulder heights of the elephants by using a program called ImageJ. The age of each of the measured elephants was calculated using the shoulder height and their age and sex. We compared the percentage of calves and adults over the age of 11 to the age distribution of an elephant population at a stable stage distribution. The calculated sex ratio of males to females was 1.05:1. Out of population size of 152 elephants 18 males and 33 females were over the age of 11. Without a management strategy in play the population will crash. Hunting offers an incredible opportunity to manage the elephant population as well as provide food and jobs to local villagers.


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