Thru-hikers’ attitudes about potential management actions for interactions with grizzly bears along the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail

Jennifer M. Thomsen, Elizabeth Covelli Metcalf, Katherine Coe, Alejandrina R. Ocañas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail (PNNST) extends 1200 miles across three states, seven national forests, six wilderness areas, three national parks, and multiple mountain ranges. This region hosts an array of wildlife and landscape features that draw day-users, backpackers, and an increasing number of thru-hikers on the PNNST. The area is also home to grizzly and black bears and has a designated Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone that encompasses 6800 square km. Grizzly bears can be a highlight for the trail experience, but can also result in human-wildlife interaction, with potentially harmful outcomes for both humans and bears. The rising popularity of thru-hiking has raised concerns about the negative impacts to bears; yet, there has been a lack of research to assess interactions or conflict between bears and hikers in this region. Researchers sent an electronic survey to 2017 and 2018 PNNST thru-hikers designed to investigate their awareness and preparation for bear interactions, social tolerance of bears, and their perceptions of human-wildlife interactions, and their acceptability of different management actions. The study informs recreation and wildlife management to mitigate human-wildlife conflict, protect wildlife resources like grizzly bears, and enhance the hiker experience. Management Implications: This research is of interest to managers because it addresses human-wildlife interactions and potential conflict that is important for wildlife and recreation management especially for long-distance trails. We also examined a range of management alternatives that could be implemented to help mitigate human-wildlife interactions for thru-hikers. This study demonstrates how pairing visitor experience data of hikers along with ecological data on grizzly bears can be useful for nesting management recommendations in the larger social-ecological context. The study also emphasizes the importance of a thru-hiker and grizzly bear monitoring program that helps managers collect meaningful data to help make decisions and adapt to the changing hiker population.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100557
JournalJournal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism
Volume39
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2022

Keywords

  • Hiking
  • Recreation
  • Wildlife

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