Are salmon bear essentials?

  New research shows that the decline of salmon populations in the Northwest has drastically altered the diet of the region's grizzly bears. Historically, say Charles Robbins of Washington State University and other researchers, salmon accounted for an average of two-thirds of a grizzly's diet, and, at times, as much as 90 percent. The biologists examined grizzly carcasses collected between 1880 and 1931, from across North America and Europe, and by analyzing slivers of bone and tufts of hair, documented the bear's historic diet. Their findings have led some to question the possibility of successful grizzly recovery in places where salmon have disappeared, such as the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness of Idaho and Montana. But David Mattson, a research wildlife biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey who has studied grizzlies in Yellowstone for 20 years, believes the findings aren't grim news for bears. "Lots of grizzly bear populations survive without salmon," Mattson says, "(and) even without (salmon), there is a lot of potential for bear in Idaho." For more information on Robbins' research, contact him at [email protected], 509/335-1119, or write to the Department of Natural Resource Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-4236.

* Juniper Davis

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