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

Slowing market has Teck closing Pend Oreille mine

Teck to close site near Metaline Falls, U.S.A., by month-end

July showers wash out half of the Okanagan’s cherry crop

Cherry growers say this is the worst season they’ve seen in decades

Final cuts for the Silver City

Two national CiB judges will tour the city this week

Buddhist monument to be dedicated in Slocan cemetery

A new post has been created to mark the site where at least nine Japanese Canadians were cremated

Welcome to the club

Six athletes were recently inducted into the BC Hockey Hall of Fame

3 dead, 2 missing in northern B.C: Here’s what we know so far

Lucas Fowler, 23, and his girlfriend, Chynna Deese, were shot and killed on July 14 or 15

Coroner investigating after body recovered from Okanagan Lake

Penticton fire department assisted the RCMP with the recovery of a body Saturday

Overdoses overwhelming in B.C. Interior

Part two: Who’s affected by the current opioid crisis

Kelowna cab driver charged with sexual assault

RCMP received a report May 28 alleging a taxi passenger had been sexually assaulted by a cab driver

Jurors talk about trial of U.S. man convicted in 1987 murders of B.C. couple

Three jurors offer a window into deliberations during the trial

Tubing world record broken on Vancouver Island

But record for length of tubes linked together still has to be confirmed

The Beaverton’s sharp satire thrives in polarized political climate

Canadian TV series’ third season to air Tuesday on CTV after “The Amazing Race Canada”

VIDEO: Young couple found dead in northern B.C. had been shot, police say

Chynna Noelle Deese of the U.S. and Lucas Robertson Fowler of Australia were found along Highway 97

VIDEO: Man found dead near B.C. teens’ truck could be linked to a double homicide

RCMP said they are looking for Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, of Port Alberni

Most Read