Friday, June 9

Brown bears ‘change habitats’ to hunt vulnerable prey | animal behavior

Grizzly bears change habitats in the spring so they can hunt reindeer and elk calves, research suggests.

After emerging from hibernation, the animals embark on an active hunting strategy to make the most of the calving period.

One of the bears studied killed 38 newborn reindeer one month and 18 young elk the next.

Research involving conservation experts from Nottingham Trent University, the University of León in Spain, and Norwegian and Swedish researchers found that the animals adapted their ranges and used the landscape to reflect the habitats of vulnerable prey.

Fifteen bears were fitted with GPS collars and monitored for two years in Norrbotten, northern Sweden, and more than 2,500 adult female reindeer were also tracked to alert researchers to close encounters.

The study found that the bears emerged from a six-month hibernation in the spring, which was when the reindeer calving period began.

At that time, they changed their preference from habitats near wetlands and evergreen forests to more rugged terrain and higher elevations, favored by reindeer with calves.

After the reindeer calving period ended and the moose calving season began, predators began to move to areas preferred by the latter, closer to deciduous forests and old clearings.

But in the summer, once calving season was over and human activity became more common, the bears switched to a berry diet and steered clear of gravel roads until it was time to hibernate again.

Dr Antonio Uzal Fernandez, a wildlife conservation expert at Nottingham Trent University’s School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences, said: “It is clear that the highly predatory bears reflected the types of reindeer land cover and moose to overlap with those seasonally available and vulnerable. dam. Such a process shows an active hunting strategy of brown bears in spring, when their diet depends more on animal protein than during the rest of the year.

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“Large carnivores are partially recovering their former ranges on several continents, and while this may provide ecological benefits for many ecosystems, it may also have management implications and unintended effects such as predation on livestock.”

He added: “Our work could help inform livestock managers and owners on how to reduce this conflict and promote long-term conservation and coexistence between humans and wildlife. Interestingly, tall and short predatory bears selected habitats differently across study periods, with few habitats selected or avoided by both groups.”

According to the study, deaths peaked during reindeer calving periods in May. Eight of the 15 bears were classified as highly predatory and averaged about half the kill per day during the reindeer and elk calving periods.

Predators killed more than 20 newborn reindeer and five newborn moose in one calving period, the study showed, with one bear averaging three kills every two days.

The researchers say their findings, published in the journal Diversity, could help develop forecasts of potential hotspots and conflicts and establish possible preventative actions.

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