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Jerod Merkle
University of Montana | Major Professor: Paul Krausman

I grew up near Phoenix, Arizona, spending summers camping in Arizona's mountains, and fishing in northern Minnesota's lakes. In 2006, I received a bachelors of science in Natural Resources with an emphasis in Wildlife Biology from the University of Arizona in Tucson. During my studies, I worked, interned, and volunteered on a number of different wildlife related projects. I worked for the Arizona Game and Fish department for 2 years, getting involved in herpetology surveys, bird surveys, small mammal trapping, bat mist-netting, and a variety of different kinds of fisheries work. I then moved on and worked in a lab that studied birds. I spent an entire year trapping and banding house finches in Tucson. Next, I spent 2 summers working on an independent research project and volunteering with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the Mexican wolf reintroduction project. After graduating, I moved to Yellowstone where I accepted a technician position with the National Park Service working on the wolf program. I was accepted to the University of Montana's Wildlife Biology Program in late November of 2007, and began my graduate research in January 2008. After completion of my master's degree, I plan on furthering my career in wildlife research.

Jerod Merkle

Ecology and behavior of black bears, Missoula, Montana and public attitudes about management

As urban areas increase in size because of human population growth, habitat for wildlife is decreasing. Although black bears generally avoid areas of high human use, they have discovered how to exploit some urban areas to obtain resources. As a result, human-black bear conflicts increased, and wildlife management agencies often respond to and manage these incidents. Agencies across black bear range spend significant amounts of time and money dealing with black bear issues within urban areas. Results from this project will provide information about human-black bear conflicts.

Our research will provide an understanding of when and where urban black bear sightings and conflicts occur, the attitudes of Missoula, Montana residents towards urban black bears, and the habitat use, movement, and behavior of black bears that live in and around Missoula. This three pronged approach will provide information regarding when and where preventative actions should be administered, the attitudes of people in conflict areas, and the factors that predict when and why black bears are in town.

First, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has been collecting data on public black bear sightings since 2003. We will analyze these data for patterns and predict when and where conflicts and sightings occur. Second, we have sent out a public survey to a sample of random residents of Missoula to sample attitudes of residents. Once all returned surveys are analyzed, we will contrast results with a 2004 study, allowing the comparison of human attitudes over time and between areas within Missoula. Third, approximately 10 global positioning system radio collars will be fitted to adult and subadult female black bears that use the urban area of Missoula. Collars will collect 8 locations per day. Collared bears will be monitored, and areas where bears repeatedly visit will be assessed.

As of 13 October 2008, we have begun to analyze the sightings data. Completed surveys are being returned from residents, and we are organizing the data for analysis. We are also 5 weeks into our trapping season. We have caught 11 bears (eight male, 3 female). We have collared two of the females; however one bear slipped the collar soon after collaring. We will continue trapping for female bears until denning season begins.

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