Habituate mammals to visitors
Overall effectiveness category Unknown effectiveness (limited evidence)
Number of studies: 1
Background information and definitions
Some mammals can show aggressive behaviour towards humans. This can be a problem especially where the species is one in high demand from humans for opportunities to watch them, and one that is capable of causing serious injury or death to humans if it does attack. This is most likely to involve large charismatic carnivores. Where animals are predictable in their movements, there may be opportunities for habituating them to humans, thus reducing the risk to visitors. This may also, then, reduce instances in which there are pressures on wildlife managers to carry out lethal control of animals that show aggressive behaviours.
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A study in 1973–1993 in a riverine and grassland site in Alaska, USA (Aumiller & Matt 1994) found that brown bears Ursus arctos that were highly habituated to humans showed less aggression towards human visitors than did non-habituated bears. Results were not tested for statistical significance. No intense charges were made at people by highly habituated bears compared to eight by bears that were not highly habituated (four by ‘wary’ and four by ‘partially habituated’ bears). No human injuries from bears were recorded. All charges, other aggressive displays and bear visits to the campsite were averted by actions such as loud noises or, occasionally, use of non-lethal rubber shot. The programme operated in a 999-km2 protected area in which bear hunting was prohibited. Bears were habituated by being in proximity to people in non-threatening interactions (see paper for details; numbers of bears not provided). Human visitors away from the campground were restricted to 10/day, usually from early June to late August. Visitors were in groups, escorted by park staff and were instructed in exhibiting non-threatening behaviour, such as avoiding loud noises or sudden movements.Study and other actions tested