Mammal Research

, Volume 63, Issue 4, pp 433–441 | Cite as

Black bear (Ursus americanus) and wolf (Canis spp.) summer diet composition and ungulate prey selectivity in Ontario, Canada

  • J. N. PoppEmail author
  • J. Hamr
  • J. L. Larkin
  • F. F. Mallory
Original Paper


Understanding predator-prey dynamics is an important component of management strategy development for wildlife populations that are directly affected by predation. Ungulates often serve as a significant source of prey for many large mammal predators, and patterns of predation are known to influence population dynamics. Although black bear and wolf diets have been investigated extensively, prey preference has been less commonly examined, especially in analyses that take into account age class (i.e., juvenile and adult) of the ungulate prey. We examined black bear (Ursus americanus), wolf (Canis lupus), and hybrids (Canis spp.) prey preference in Ontario based on the availability of three ungulate species—elk (Cervus elaphus), moose (Alces alces), and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). We analyzed the presence of prey items in black bear and wolf scats collected over 3 years by examining prey hair cuticular scale patterns. We applied correction factors to frequencies of occurrence of prey items found in predator scat and related diet composition to the availability of ungulates, determined by fecal pellet transect surveys. In addition, non-ungulate diet items were identified to obtain full diet composition profiles. We found that black bear diet consisted of more than 87% vegetation, and they were opportunistic, not selecting for any particular ungulate species in either adult or juvenile age class. Wolf diet was comprised mainly of ungulates (~ 73.2%), muskrat (Ondatra zibethica; ~ 8.5%), and beaver (Castor canadensis; ~ 14.6%), and although moose were at least 1.5 times more abundant then each of the other ungulate prey species in the study area, wolves preferred elk, using moose less than expected. Although we found black bear diet to be opportunistic during the summer, wolves in our study heavily utilized both juvenile and adult ungulates, however, among ungulate species, displayed preference for elk. The preference displayed by wolves provides insight that wildlife managers can use to guide further investigation and assist with the development of strategies to ensure continued elk reintroduction success, and moose and white-tailed deer population sustainability.


Black bear diet Prey selectivity Ungulate Wolf diet 



The authors acknowledge the Sudbury Elk Restoration Committee (SERC) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) for funding this research as well as Dr. Mark Boyce, Dr. Art Rodgers, Dr. Michael Persinger, and Dr. Robert Lafrenie for their review of this manuscript prior to submission.


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Copyright information

© Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, Białowieża, Poland 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. N. Popp
    • 1
    Email author
  • J. Hamr
    • 1
  • J. L. Larkin
    • 2
  • F. F. Mallory
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyLaurentian UniversitySudburyCanada
  2. 2.Department of BiologyIndiana University of PennsylvaniaIndianaUSA

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