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A food-based habitat-selection model for grizzly bears in Kluane National Park, Yukon McCormick, James Edward

Abstract

I examined the relationship between plant food abundance and diet, and habitat selection by grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) in the Alsek River Valley, Kluane National Park (KNP) in 1995 and 1996. I built a simple model that combined how much food was present in each bear habitat type (BHT) with how prevalent that food was in the diet of grizzly bears to produce a habitat food value (HFV) for each BHT. I tested the effectiveness of the model using habitat selection data from radio-collared grizzly bears. I designed this model to make a priori predictions of selection of BHTs by grizzly bears. The model combined the relative food abundances from each BHT with the respective seasonal food values to produce a HFV for each BHT. I calculated the relative abundance of 10 grizzlybear plant foods within 8 BHTs from 478 food abundance plots. Diet was inferred from an analysis of scats collected in KNP. Four dietary seasons were distinguished based on shifts in plant foods eaten. I calculated a food value by dietary season for each plant food based on relative consumption of that food within that season. BHTs were ranked by HFV within each season and these ranks represented predicted habitat selection by grizzly bears. I tested the utility of this model by comparing actual habitat selection with the predictions of my model. Actual selection of BHTs by grizzly bears was measured from aerial locations (n=365) of radio-collared grizzly bears and then ranked within each dietary season. I compared the ranks of actual habitat selection (grizzly bear telemetry locations) to the ranks of predicted habitat selection (HFVs). HFVs were successful predictors of grizzly bear habitat selection. This simple food-based model may be used by Park managers to minimise human disturbance of grizzly bears in the Alsek valley by restricting human activity in areas of high grizzly bear food value.

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