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A phenological comparison of grizzly (Ursus arctos) and polar bears (Ursus maritimus) as waterfowl nest predators in Wapusk National Park

Abstract

Relatively little is known about the feeding ecology of grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) in Wapusk National Park. Other ursids, polar bears (Ursus maritimus), are well known predators of waterfowl nests in the area, and grizzly bears could feasibly make use of such resources. However, since the arrival of polar bears on land in the spring is largely dependent on date of sea-ice breakup, the timing of predation by each bear species may differ. We investigated the timing of bear predation in common eider (Somateria mollissima sedentaria) and lesser snow goose (Anser caerulescens caerulescens) colonies from 2012 to 2018 using nest cameras. We observed grizzlies consuming eggs of both species in all years except 2013 and confirmed that at least two individual grizzlies occupied the park in 2016. In the 3 years when both grizzly and polar bears were detected, grizzlies were observed earlier in the year than polar bears and had greater overlap with an estimated availability index of incubating waterfowl. We hypothesize that grizzly bears could have earlier access to waterfowl eggs in the park, potentially reducing availability of these terrestrial foods to polar bears.

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Acknowledgements

Funding was generously provided by the National Science Foundation (#13197000 awarded to SNE), North Dakota EPSCoR Infrastructure Improvement Program-Doctoral Dissertation Assistantship #OIA-1355466, Wapusk National Park, Arctic Goose Joint Venture, the Central and Mississippi Flyway Councils, the National Geographic Society, North Dakota View Scholarship, UND College of Arts and Sciences, and UND Biology Department. DTI received funding for this work from Ducks Unlimited Canada, Delta Waterfowl, and the California Waterfowl Association. Permissions and in-kind assistance were provided by Parks Canada, Wapusk National Park Management Board, and the Community of Churchill, Manitoba. Wapusk National Park provided us with the mapping files for the construction of Fig. 1, while the Canadian provinces and territories layer was accessed via ESRI online. We are grateful for flight coordination and logistic support from Hudson Bay Helicopters. We thank Heather Slinn for comments on an early draft of this manuscript, as well as the constructive feedback from the Polar Biology Editor-in-Chief Dieter Piepenburg and three reviewers: Dr. Karyn Rode, Dr. Aimee Tallian, and one anonymous reviewer. This work would not have been possible without assistance in the field and image review by technicians who are too numerous to name here.

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Correspondence to Andrew F. Barnas.

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The authors have no conflicts of interest or competing interests to declare. Data collection in Wapusk was authorized by Wapusk National Park Permits: WAP-2012-11199, WAP-2015-18760, WAP-2018-27940, WAP 2013-13534, and WAP-2016-2149; Canadian Wildlife Services Permits: 11-MB-SC001 and 16-MB-SC001; Utah State University IACUC Protocols 2208 and 2018, University of North Dakota IACUC approvals #A3917-01 and Protocols 1505-10, 1601-2, and 1801-3C.

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Barnas, A.F., Iles, D.T., Stechmann, T.J. et al. A phenological comparison of grizzly (Ursus arctos) and polar bears (Ursus maritimus) as waterfowl nest predators in Wapusk National Park. Polar Biol 43, 457–465 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-020-02647-w

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-020-02647-w

Keywords

  • Ursus arctos
  • Ursus maritimus
  • Somateria mollissima sedentaria
  • Anser caerulescens caerulescens
  • Predation
  • Wapusk national park