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

Drivesmart column: Headlights and aftermarket fraudulent compliance markings

The “LED bulbs” now flooding the market are not a legitimate, safe, effective, or legal product.

Three big shows of ‘Legends and Heroes’ as Carlson’s in Cowichan complete another great season

Hip hop, modern, jazz, ballet, and tap students show their stuff as studio winds up 2018/19

Cowichan Coffee Time: Skills win, and wreath laying in Ottawa

• The Cowichan Valley Board of Education is congratulating Cowichan Secondary School… Continue reading

Alistair MacGregor column: The Canada Revenue Agency wants to hear from Canadians about improving services

The purpose of the consultations is to listen and learn from Canadians

Robert Barron column: It’s good to see kids excited about education

A travelling salesman banged on our door and showed my parents an encyclopedia set

10 facts about Father’s Day

Did you know that the special day for dads was first celebrated in 1910?

Coming up in Cowichan: Spend Father’s Day fishing, or head to the BC Forest Discovery Centre

Deadline coming to register for class reunion The Cowichan Secondary Class of… Continue reading

B.C. VIEWS: When farmland protection doesn’t protect farmers

Secondary residences aren’t mansions, families tell Lana Popham

Bombers down B.C. Lions 33-23 in season opener

Former Lion Andrew Harris leads Winnipeg with 148 rushing yards

Northern B.C. family remembers murdered Indigenous woman with memorial walk

Still no closure for Ramona Wilson’s family 25 years later

Monkey spotted on late-night jaunt in Campbell River

Conservation officers also apparently looking for cougar in the area

B.C. university to offer mentorship program for former youth in care

Students using the provincial tuition waiver program will soon be able to form a community at KPU

Cyclists competing in one of the toughest bike races on the planet pass through Fernie

Divide riders looking strong as they finish first leg of 4160 km race

You might not know these B.C. records are public

Hired a lawyer to file a civil claim? Those are published online

Most Read