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

Waste not: Trail brewery leftovers feed the local food chain

Spent grains from the Trail Beer Refinery are donated to local farmers and growers, none go to waste

First-round sweeps highlight world of hockey oddities

Sports ‘n’ Things with Dave Thompson

Rural dividend grants awarded in Kootenay West

Kootenay West MLA Katrine Conroy made the grant announcements in Trail on Thursday

44 Engineer Squadron welcomes new commander

Trail Armoury welcomes Major Nils French, a Rossland native

Easter Egg Hunt, Saturday at Trail mall

Grapevine: List of events in the Trail area for the week of April 18 to April 24

VIDEO: Alberta man creates world’s biggest caricature

Dean Foster is trying to break the world record for a radio show contest

Should B.C. lower speed limits on side roads to 30 km/h?

Vancouver city councillor wants to decrease speed limits along neighbourhood side roads

Lawsuit eyed over union-only raise for B.C. community care workers

‘Low-wage redress’ leaves 17,000 employees out, employers say

Landlord of alleged Okanagan shooter recounts deadly day

Tony Friesen was working in one of the units of his Penticton building when he heard shots

Foreign national arrested in connection to thefts at YVR

A woman, 60, is being held in police custody as Richmond RCMP investigate

Police pursue pesky porker on Vancouver Island

‘This was allegedly not the pig’s first escape’

Westjet tries again to dismiss proposed class-action lawsuit alleging discrimination

Former flight attendant claims airline broke contractual promise to create harassment-free workplace

Man airlifted to hospital after apparent hunting incident in East Kootenay

The man was in stable condition when he was flown out of Fairmont Hot Springs to a Calgary hospital

Police probe eight fires set at B.C. elementary school

Nanaimo RCMP say fires appear to have been set intentionally

Most Read