BC bear viewing: an analysis of bear-human interactions, economic and social dimensions with recommendations for best practices

Nevin, Owen, Gilbert, Barrie K. and Smith, Julian S. (2001) BC bear viewing: an analysis of bear-human interactions, economic and social dimensions with recommendations for best practices. Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Utah State University, Logan, Utah, US. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

The Pacific mid-coast region of British Columbia has a mild, hypermaritime climate that places its biological productivity in the range of tropical rainforests. The low elevation river valleys are characterized by rich alluvial soils, further enriched annually by upstream nutrients flooding over the stream banks of the floodplains and distributing rich silt to the roots of giant Sitka spruce and Western hemlock forests. Unique to Canada's rivers flowing into the Pacific (but not north into the Mackenzie River, for example) are the massive contributions of nutrients from the bodies of 5 species of anadromous salmonids. This flux of organic matter has long been recognized as essential to the production of young salmon but the additional fertility increment to riparian and upland forests is currently under intense investigation (Bilby et al. 1996, Cederholm et al. 1999, Willson et al. 1998). The crucial role of migratory salmon in supporting dense populations of grizzly bears has recently been demonstrated for a large sample of coastal bears in Alaska (Miller et al. 1997). A strong statistical correlation between the per cent of meat, mainly salmon, in the diet and bear density (Hilderbrand et al. 1999) confirmed earlier speculation by Miller et al. (1997) that Alaskan's most dense bear populations also had high salmon diets and were among the most dense on a worldwide basis.

Grizzly or brown bears on the coast of British Columbia and Alaska are the same species as the grizzly bears of the Rocky Mountains. However they are much bigger and have higher population densities because of abundant salmon (Hilderbrand et al. 1999). Alaskan population densities vary from a maximum of 550 bears /1000 km2 in Katmai National Park where salmon are seasonally available to less than 5 bears /1000 km2 for mountain bears of the eastern Brooks Range on a marginal food base (Miller et al. 1997). Coastal Alaskan bears forage widely for fish. At Brooks River in Katmai National Park & Preserve bears feed on sockeye salmon starting in late June as soon as they enter rivers to spawn (Gilbert 1995). At this time, when the salmon are rich in fat, a fuel used to ascend rivers, build redds, mate and defend their nests against others, hundreds of bears have daily access to the fish. Bears feed on these salmon which have 50% of their caloric value in fat. From Katmai's Brooks falls bears migrate with the fish to their spawning beds and, later, back to the stream mouths where the dying fish are again consumed in prodigious numbers. The end result of this movement is a pattern of deposition of fish pieces and feces over the landscape. Studies of the fate of salmon carcasses in the state of Washington showed that 22 species of mammals and birds carried salmon pieces into the forest (Cederholm et al. 1989). The nitrogen in the fish parts and bear feces and urine is incorporated into plants and animals in the forest and in the streams thereby enriching the ecosystems there. Bears are one of the largest contributors because of the massive amount of material that they consume and the great distances that they move.

Many of the Alaskan sites with the highest bear densities have become popular, and profitable, tourist destinations. More recently a bear viewing/eco-tourist industry has begun to develop in British Columbia. In March 1998 bear viewing policy and guidelines were presented in which the government expressed support for the use of bears for viewing. This study addresses the impacts of viewing on bears and presents recommendations for further research and the sustainable development of bear viewing in the province.

Item Type: Report
Publisher: Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Utah State University
Related URL(s):
Departments: Forestry and Conservation
Depositing User: Insight Administrator
Date Deposited: 30 Mar 2011 16:26
Last Modified: 22 Mar 2019 10:06
URI: http://insight.cumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/869

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