Study shows black bears need a variety of salmon species to be healthy

They studied animals across a 22,000-kilometre stretch along coastal British Columbia’s ‘Great Bear Rainforest’

Black bears need access to different species of salmon rather than huge numbers of a single variety in order to be healthy, a new study by Canadian researchers indicates.

Lead author Christina Service said if bears have access to a “portfolio of different salmon species” then the animals have access to more food for a greater part of the year.

“It is the equivalent of humans going to an all-you-can-eat buffet for just a couple of days versus having one good meal a day for many months,” said the PhD candidate from the University of Victoria, adding that different species of the fish have different run timings and use different habitat.

When they have access to the fish for a larger part of the year, they end up eating more salmon overall and are in better health, she said.

The team of researchers used chemical techniques on hair samples from 379 black bears and 122 grizzly bears between 2009 and 2014 to estimate their salmon consumption, which showed population productivity and health.

They studied animals across a 22,000-kilometre stretch along coastal British Columbia’s “Great Bear Rainforest,” in collaboration with the Wuikinuxv, Nuxalk, Heiltsuk and Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nations.

READ MORE: Ryan Reynolds to narrate movie about B.C.’s Great Bear Rainforest

With bears hibernating in winter, they have only certain windows where they’re able to eat, Service said.

So by having access to salmon earlier in the year bears can start fattening up sooner, she said.

Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation Chief Councillor and study collaborator Douglas Neasloss said he is concerned that the federal government’s current salmon management focuses on large salmon runs and often ignores smaller runs that contribute to diversity.

Study co-author Chris Darimont said researchers have expressed concern about the health of all salmon populations.

“It’s a difficult time to be a salmon these days with climate change, reduced ocean productivity, over-exploitation, diseases from salmon farms and neglect in management,” he said.

Service said the federal government should think about the management of fisheries in a holistic sense.

This means thinking of fisheries as benefitting not just commercial and recreational interests but other wildlife and ecosystems too, she said.

“We need to consider species diversity and not just abundance.”

So not just those that are easy to produce in hatcheries and commercially valuable but the smaller runs too, she said.

“Those (smaller) runs really matter for bears.”

READ MORE: Problem bears in Sooke break into car and have a party in a shed

She said research shows the more variety of salmon that bear eat, the bigger they get, the more offspring they are able to have and the better those offspring do.

Bears play a really important role in the moving of nutrients, she said, explaining that salmon are moved from water to land and bears act as gardeners by fertilizing the ground with fish carcass.

Nutrients from salmon carcasses not just help trees but other species too, she said.

“It is important to care about bears because they are bears and they have intrinsic value, but the bear-salmon relationship is also very important to ecosystem,” Service said.

Hina Alam, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Parksville seniors getting stronger with age

Weightlifting couple qualify to compete at Worlds Masters in Montreal in August

Camera captures cougar lurking in Parksville’s Foster Park neighbourhood

Resident shared photo to alert others to big cat’s presence

RDN tipping fees set to go up in July

The Regional District of Nanaimo is set to increase tipping fees at… Continue reading

Ballenas Whalers girls are crazy about rugby

Program has attracted close to 60 girls this season

Defiant vigil starts healing in New Zealand after massacre

Police say the gunman in the shooting that killed 50 acted alone

Nearly 40% of British Columbians not taking their medications correctly: poll

Introduction of legal cannabis could cause more issues for drug interactions

Mining company fined $70,000 after two workers killed in B.C. truck crash

Broda Construction pleaded guilty to failing to provide safe workplace at Cranbrook rock quarry

B.C. argues it cannot stop Trans Mountain, but it can protect environment

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says only Ottawa has the authority to decide what goes in trans-boundary pipelines

B.C. poverty plan combines existing spending, housing programs

Target is to lift 140,000 people out of poverty from 2016 level

Avalanche warning issued for all B.C. mountains

Warm weather to increase avalanche risk: Avalanche Canada

Temperature records dating back to 1947 broken in B.C.

The Squamish airport recorded the hottest temperature in the province (and Canada) on Sunday: 21.3 C

Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick retires in wake of SNC-Lavalin case

Jody Wilson-Raybould accused Wernick of pressuring her to head off criminal charges for the firm

Dutch tram shooting suspect arrested, say police

Police say three people were killed in the shooting Monday and five wounded

Most Read