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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Behavioural responses of brown bears to roads and hunting disturbance

Brown, Ludovick; Zedrosser, Andreas; Kindberg, Jonas; Pelletier, Fanie


Harvest regulations commonly attenuate the consequences of hunting on specific segments of a population. However, regulations may not protect individuals from non-lethal effects of hunting and their consequences remain poorly understood. In this study, we compared the movement rates of Scandinavian brown bears (Ursus arctos, n = 47) across spatiotemporal variations in risk in relation to the onset of bear hunting. We tested two alternative hypotheses based on whether behavioural responses to hunting involve hiding or escaping. If bears try to reduce risk exposure by avoiding being detected by hunters, we expect individuals from all demographic groups to reduce their movement rate during the hunting season. On the other hand, if bears avoid hunters by escaping, we expect them to increase their movement rate in order to leave high-risk areas faster. We found an increased movement rate in females accompanied by dependent offspring during the morning hours of the bear hunting season, a general decrease in movement rate in adult lone females, and no changes in males and subadult females. The increased movement rate that we observed in females with dependant offspring during the hunting season was likely an antipredator response because it only occurred in areas located closer to roads, whereas the decreased movement rate in lone females could be either part of seasonal activity patterns or be associated with an increased selection for better concealment. Our study suggests that female brown bears accompanied by offspring likely move faster in high-risk areas to minimize risk exposure as well as the costly trade-offs (i.e. time spent foraging vs. time spent hiding) typically associated with anti-predator tactics that involve changes in resource selection. Our study also highlights the importance of modelling fine-scale spatiotemporal variations in risk to adequately capture the complexity in behavioural responses caused by human activities in wildlife.


disturbance; hunting; landscape of fear; movement rate; risk perception; Ursus arctos

Published in

Ecology and Evolution
2024, Volume: 14, number: 6, article number: e11532
Publisher: WILEY

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Behavioral Sciences Biology

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