Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Science in Biology



Major Advisor

Neil H. Carter, Ph.D.


Vicken Hillis, Ph.D.


Amy Ulappa, Ph.D.


Jesse Barber, Ph.D.


In anthropogenic landscapes, which prevail globally, preserving key habitat corridors or routes between wildlife populations is vital for long-term species persistence. Animals moving through these corridors can encounter a number of barriers, including roads, fences, or other human land-uses. Additionally, people unwilling to cohabitate with wildlife can also kill animals considered nuisances or disturb animals in ways that reduce their fitness. The spatial patterns of human tolerance therefore play an important role in the efficacy of habitat corridors. Although there are large bodies of research on habitat corridors and human attitudes toward wildlife, studies that examine the spatial interaction of the two are nonexistent. In this thesis, I examined spatial patterns of two social dimensions, attitudes and behaviors, of ranchers along key dispersal corridors for grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) between North American source populations: the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem. I focused on this system because risks from grizzlies on rancher safety and livelihoods exacerbate disagreements among different stakeholder groups on where grizzlies should be allowed to expand and how to manage their populations.

First, I measured acceptance of ranchers toward grizzly bears through a mail questionnaire of 505 respondents. I found that social acceptance was positively related to the area of wildland-urban interface and number of conservation easements in the surrounding landscape, and was negatively related to distance to occupied bear range. Spatial predictions revealed several areas where low acceptance was aggregated within critical bear habitat corridors, which could potentially act as significant barriers to bear movement (Chapter 1). Next, I investigated spatial patterns of rancher use of four techniques that are meant to prevent conflict with grizzly bears and other predators. Three were methods that prevent mortality - carcass removal, fencing around livestock, and nonlethal techniques (such as fladry or noisemakers) – in addition to use of lethal removal. I found distinct spatial clusters of respondents that used different techniques for living with wildlife. I also found that the use of carcass and lethal removal were negatively related to acceptance for grizzly bears and elk, while use of wildlife-safe fencing was positively related to acceptance (Chapter 2). Combined, these findings provide evidence that examining the spatial patterns of social factors can help to prioritize conservation planning, understand drivers of attitudes and behaviors and move towards coexistence with wildlife.



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