Humans or bears: why not both? The creation of an analytical framework to assess the transferability of non-lethal measures to mitigate the human-bear conflict and its application to the Trentino-Alto Adige (Italy) case
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Human interactions with wildlife escalating into conflictual and dangerous situations for both parties are called human-wildlife conflicts (HWCs), and occur worldwide with different species. This thesis focuses only on the human-bear conflict (HBC) in the Trentino-Alto Adige region (Italy). There, after almost going extinct, brown bears have been reintroduced in 1999 and are currently increasing and counting almost 100 specimens. This has, consequently, raised the number of damages to livestock, crops and beehives and attacks to people. The conflict is mitigated with proactive and reactive measures and with damages compensation. Some measures, such as captivity and culling, are strongly rejected by animal rights groups but the level of tolerance of local populations towards bears is decreasing, as some episodes of illegal killings show. This case, hence, may benefit from the transfer of measures from areas experiencing the same conflict. It is, in fact, very important that countries dealing with the same HWC exchange knowledge and, according to literature, it is urgent to enhance the transferability of measures. Currently, there is no framework taking into account the necessary success conditions to assess the transferability of measures to mitigate the HBC, so this thesis developed one and applied it to the Trentino-Alto Adige case, in order to gather some teachings on transferability for this case and in general. The transferability of some promising non-lethal measures in terms of conflict mitigation not yet applied in Trentino was assessed, namely the bear-spray, diversionary feeding, wildlife corridors and conditioned taste-aversion. The results, obtained through literature review and interviews with experts working in the area, show that the bear-spray meets the most the transferability conditions in Trentino and would be successful in preventing bears attacks, while conditioned taste-aversion is promising in decreasing the predation of anthropogenic food sources but needs to be adequately tested. Diversionary feeding and wildlife corridors do not meet the transferability conditions in Trentino and would, therefore, hardly be transferred. This is in line with literature, as every conflict has its own features and requires tailor-made solutions. Moreover, the interviewees also confirmed the importance of exchanging experience with colleagues from abroad and highlighted the need of a better communication with locals and a higher implementation of culling when needed. In conclusion, the findings and the transferability framework developed have the potential of being helpful not only for this case-study but also to assess transferability of measures for HWC in general, and, to a greater extent, contribute to the enhancing of co-existence between people and wildlife.