Salmon diver­sity key to black bear health: study

Edmonton Sun - - COFFEE BREAK - Hina Alam The Cana­dian Press

VAN­COU­VER — Black bears need ac­cess to dif­fer­ent species of salmon rather than huge num­bers of a sin­gle va­ri­ety in or­der to be healthy, a new study by Cana­dian re­searchers in­di­cates.

Lead author Christina Ser­vice said if bears have ac­cess to a “port­fo­lio of dif­fer­ent salmon species” then the an­i­mals have ac­cess to more food for a greater part of the year.

“It is the equiv­a­lent of hu­mans go­ing to an all-you­can-eat buf­fet for just a cou­ple of days ver­sus hav­ing one good meal a day for many months,” said the PHD can­di­date from the Univer­sity of Vic­to­ria, adding that dif­fer­ent species of the fish have dif­fer­ent run tim­ings and use dif­fer­ent habi­tat.

When they have ac­cess to the fish for a larger part of the year, they end up eat­ing more salmon over­all and are in bet­ter health, she said.

The team of re­searchers used chem­i­cal tech­niques on hair sam­ples from 379 black bears and 122 griz­zly bears be­tween 2009 and 2014 to es­ti­mate their salmon con­sump­tion, which showed pop­u­la­tion pro­duc­tiv­ity and health.

They stud­ied an­i­mals across a 22,000-km stretch along coastal Bri­tish Co­lum­bia’s “Great Bear Rain­for­est,” in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Wuik­in­uxv, Nux­alk, Heilt­suk and Ki­ta­soo/xai’xais First Na­tions.

With bears hi­ber­nat­ing in win­ter, they have only cer­tain win­dows where they’re able to eat, Ser­vice said.

So by hav­ing ac­cess to salmon ear­lier in the year bears can start fat­ten­ing up sooner, she said.

Ki­ta­soo/xai’xais First Na­tion Chief Coun­cil­lor and study col­lab­o­ra­tor Dou­glas Neasloss said he is con­cerned that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s cur­rent salmon man­age­ment fo­cuses on large salmon runs and of­ten ig­nores smaller runs that con­trib­ute to diver­sity.

Study co-author Chris Da­ri­mont said re­searchers have ex­pressed con­cern about the health of all salmon pop­u­la­tions.

“It’s a dif­fi­cult time to be a salmon these days with cli­mate change, re­duced ocean pro­duc­tiv­ity, over-ex­ploita­tion, dis­eases from salmon farms and ne­glect in man­age­ment,” he said.

Ser­vice said the fed­eral gov­ern­ment should think about the man­age­ment of fish­eries in a holis­tic sense.

This means think­ing of fish­eries as ben­e­fit­ing not just com­mer­cial and recre­ational in­ter­ests but other wildlife and ecosys­tems too, she said.

“We need to con­sider species diver­sity and not just abun­dance.”

So not just those that are easy to pro­duce in hatch­eries and com­mer­cially valu­able but the smaller runs too, she said. “Those (smaller) runs re­ally mat­ter for bears.”

April BENCZE/ HO-THE Cana­dian press

A new study shows that black bears need dif­fer­ent species of salmon rather than huge num­bers of them in a short pe­riod to be healthy.

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