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Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 65, Issue 4, pp 823–835 | Cite as

Seasonal migrations of black bears (Ursus americanus): causes and consequences

  • Karen V. NoyceEmail author
  • David L. Garshelis
Original Paper

Abstract

American black bears frequently abandon their home ranges in late summer and move to feeding areas to fatten themselves for hibernation. We examined seasonal movements of 206 radio-collared bears in north-central Minnesota during 1981–1990. We exploited the variability in this long-term data set to test tradeoffs for animals leaving their home range. Late summer movements were common for both sexes and all ages (39% of females, 44% of males), but were variable from year-to-year in prevalence, timing, and destination. Bears typically left their summer home ranges in August and returned ~6 weeks later in September or October. Most traveled southward, where acorns were more plentiful (median = 10 km for females, 26 km for males; maximum = 168 km). These facultative migrations were most common when rich resources were available outside home ranges. Bears were least apt to leave when foods were scarce in their home range, possibly sensing a risk of migrating during a widespread food failure. Among females, those whose body mass was close to a reproductive threshold were most prone to migrate. Migrating bears were less likely to be killed by hunters, suggesting that they were especially vigilant.

Keywords

Cost/benefit trade-offs Food abundance Hunting mortality Oak mast Reproductive threshold Seasonal movements 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This project was initiated and supported by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources as part of a long-term research project on the population dynamics of black bears in Minnesota. We are grateful for the assistance of many DNR biologists, foresters, and other personnel, as well as the pilots, student interns and volunteers who assisted with radio-telemetry, trapping and handling bears, conducting food surveys, and maintaining records. In particular, we thank P. Coy, P. Harris, J. Young, D. Clapp, B. Sampson, K. Soring, M. Gallagher, and T. Lizotte. K. Kerr and G. Matson sectioned teeth for age determination. We thank J. Fieberg for statistical advice and E. Hellgren for helpful comments on the manuscript.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Minnesota Department of Natural ResourcesForest Wildlife Populations and Research GroupGrand RapidsUSA

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