Conflicts between humans and brown bears (Ursus arctos) in Europe remain an on-going threat to the protection of the species and systematic efforts are necessary to tackle specific conservation challenges, such as the lack of understanding the socio-economic and ecological role of the bear or the inflated estimations of the risk of bear attacks. These challenges lead currently to a lower tolerance of the species and hinder the improvement of human – bear relationships. Therefore, in order to ensure the long-term survival of bears it is of paramount importance to increase local acceptance of the species.
Nowadays, changing societal values and increased wildlife conservation efforts are changing the landscape of the tourism sector and provide opportunities for improving conservation of endangered species and for the development of alternative sources of revenue for local communities. This applies not only to the remote wilderness areas of Africa, Asia or North America, but also for densely-populated Europe, where growing numbers of people travel to rural areas to discover the last (or re-established) areas of wilderness on the continent. This trend presents an economic opportunity for local communities and potential conservation benefits for bears.
Although bears continue to be hunted in many European countries, they are increasingly valued alive in the context of wildlife tourism, and for conservation and educational reasons. Bear watching and photography are nowadays the most common forms of non-consumptive bear use.
Furthermore our coexistence programmes demonstrate that it is also possible to lower the attacks on livestock and promote a sustainable living with large carnivore.