Emergency-line calls as an indicator to assess human–wildlife interaction in urban areas

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Human–wildlife interactions (HWIs) are increasingly common human disturbances as development continues to remove wildlife habitats. Documenting HWI is critical for environmental protection agencies to develop strategies and management decisions that meet the needs of both people and wildlife. However, evaluation of the frequency and types of HWI at broad spatial scales (e.g., national or regional level) can be costly and difficult to implement by managers. In this study, we apply a novel method for the evaluation of patterns of HWI in urban areas by using publicly available data from emergency calls (ECs) placed by inhabitants of Romania's urban areas. We used information from 4601 ECs placed at the Romanian National Emergency Call System 112, which consisted of (1) wildlife species, (2) spatial location, (3) date and time, and (4) a short description of the emergency. Of the 318 analyzed cities, 300 cities documented ECs on HWI between 2015 and 2020, with roe deer and brown bear being the most frequently mentioned species. We recorded an increasing trend in HWI-related ECs in 73% of the urban areas over the five-year period. We mapped the large-scale distribution of HWI by species and type of interactions in order to capture variations at the national level. Further, we analyzed the social and the biophysical factors potentially influencing the occurrence and frequency of HWI. The results showed that social factors have the same effect on all species, while the effect of the biophysical factors varied between species. Particularly, the presence of large natural habitats, represented by forests, influenced the number of calls only for brown bears. Seminatural landscapes with agricultural land have a different influence in terms of effect and significance for the considered species. Our results suggest that publicly available data from ECs can be used for the rapid assessment of HWI and for evaluating trends and predictors of HWI at broad spatial scales.