Behavioural effects of viewing and social dynamics of grizzly bears along the Fishing Branch River, Yukon

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(Research Project) M.R.M.
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Wildlife-based ecotourism has rapidly increased in popularity, especially when featuring large mammals in their natural environment. Researchers have questioned the sustainability of wildlife-based ecotourism because it may compromise the survival and reproduction of focal animals. I investigated the potential spat io-temporal effects of bear viewers on grizzly bears at a proposed bear viewing site along the Fishing Branch River, Yukon. Spatial river use of grizzly bears was largely explained by habituation status. Bears consumed 24 % less salmon when viewers were present, posing serious energetic consequences if spatio-temporal compensation does not occur. Dominance status had no measurable effect on bears’ fishing behaviour presumably because abundant salmon and few conspecifics minimized resource-driven competition. However, dominance status could influence feeding behaviour in years with reduced salmon abundance, which would compound viewer-induced reductions in fish consumption. I recommend further investigation into potential spatio-temporal compensatory behaviours of grizzly bears along the Fishing Branch River.
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