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Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Mortality, Human Habituation, and Whitebark Pine Seed Crops

David J. Mattson, Bonnie M. Blanchard and Richard R. Knight
The Journal of Wildlife Management
Vol. 56, No. 3 (Jul., 1992), pp. 432-442
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Wildlife Society
DOI: 10.2307/3808855
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3808855
Page Count: 11
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Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Mortality, Human Habituation, and Whitebark Pine Seed Crops
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Abstract

The Yellowstone grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) population may be extirpated during the next 100-200 years unless mortality rates stabilize and remain at acceptable low levels. Consequently, we analyzed relationships between Yellowstone grizzly bear mortality and frequency of human habituation among bears and size of the whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) seed crop. During years of large seed crops, bears used areas within 5 km of roads and 8 km of developments half as intensively as during years of small seed crops because whitebark pine's high elevation distribution is typically remote from human facilities. On average, management trappings of bears were 6.2 times higher, mortality of adult females 2.3 times higher, and mortality of subadult males 3.3 times higher during years of small seed crops. We hypothesize that high mortality of adult females and subadult males during small seed crop years was a consequence of their tendency to range closest (of all sex-age cohorts) to human facilities; they also had a higher frequency of human habituation compared with adult males. We also hypothesize that low mortality among subadult females during small seed crop years was a result of fewer energetic stressors compared with adult females and greater familiarity with their range compared with subadult males; mortality was low even though they ranged close to humans and exhibited a high frequency of human habituation. Human-habituated and food-conditioned bears were 2.9 times as likely to range within 4 km of developments and 3.1 times as often killed by humans compared with nonhabituated bears. We argue that destruction of habituated bears that use native foods near humans results in a decline in the overall ability of bears to use available habitat; and that the number and extent of human facilities in occupied grizzly bear habitat needs to be minimized unless habituated bears are preserved and successful ways to manage the associated risks to humans are developed.

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