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Skuban, Michaela; Finďo, Slavomír; Kajba, Matúš (2016): Human impacts on bear feeding habits and habitat selection in the PoA3/4ana Mountains, Slovakia. In: European Journal of Wildlife Research, Vol. 62, No. 3: pp. 353-364
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Due to altered agricultural and hunting policies, anthropogenic food recently became more accessible for bears in Slovakia. Supplementary feeding of ungulates and cereal/maize crops in fields provide attractive food for bears. Although the influence of supplementary feeding on bear behaviour has been partially explained, the importance of fields as additional food for bears remains poorly understood. The objective of this study was to evaluate if human-derived foods are an important component of the bear diet and how maize fields influence the habitat selection of bears. We further evaluated seasonal variation in bear diet and quantified the energetic contribution of various food items. We expected changes in brown bear feeding habits to favour anthropogenic food, and a preference for fields over other habitats. The bear diet was investigated by the analysis of 243 scats. To explore habitat selection, we used the K-select analysis. Three prevalent food categories contributed to energy intake throughout the year: wild mammals, hard mast and cultivated plants. Contrary to expectations that cultivated plants add most to energy intake (estimated dietary energy content (EDEC)), natural foods were more important. It seems that the winter activity of bears was related to prolific crops of beechnuts and mild winters, rather than to supplementary feeding. Additionally, we revealed that maize fields affect the habitat selection of bears. Although the bear population in the study area has considerably increased over recent decades-probably due to profuse food resources and long-term conservation-no relevant changes in bear behaviour jeopardising human safety have been observed.