Changing Tides - Bluebird Days For Researchers And Bears

June 15, 2016 Posted by: Joy Erlenbach

The May 2016 bear collaring efforts on the Katmai coast were a great success. The Changing Tides research project benefited from a few bluebird weather days, and was able to fit 10 bears with GPS collars. 

Researchers inspect a sedated bear
Researchers collared 10 female bears over three days along a portion of Katmai’s coast. J. Erlenbach Photo

As with last year, all collared bears are adult females spanning the area between Hallo Bay and Cape Douglas—some of them with 1 or 2 year old cubs, and some of them with no cubs. The 10 bears collared this year will continue to transmit their locations to researchers until the collars are removed in October. One of those bears is also collecting video footage via a small recorder attached to the collar. Combined with the information from the 9 bears collared last year, the information from these 19 bears is furthering researchers’ understanding about the habitat preferences and movement patterns of coastal bears. 

Colored dots represent bears' movements on a map of Katmai
Each bear was collared in a different location and is represented by a different colored dot. Bear 026’s dot cannot be seen behind bear 096’s dot, they were captured four days apart. 

Coastal bear diets and the effects of different diets on the ability of bears to gain weight are also being examined. This year bears weighed 354 (+ 93) lbs. on average, which is fairly consistent with last year’s average May weight of 327 (+ 91) lbs. Body fat was also similar between May this year [13 (+ 9)%] and May last year [10 (+ 6)%], although it was slightly higher this year. Researchers are curious to see how bears’ summer and fall diet and body compositions this year will compare to last year; pink salmon in coastal Katmai have a weak even-year return pattern, so they may not provide as much nourishment to bears this coming salmon season. You might see researchers sampling salmon on the coast this year to start to better answer these and other important questions. 

A bear walks on the beach with a salmon in its mouth
With a predicted small pink salmon run, will the bears weight data show a significant difference from last year? J. Erlenbach Photo

Changing Tides, bears, Brown Bear, science, Katmai National Preserve, salmon

Last updated: June 15, 2016

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