We studied the spring use of ungulate carcasses by grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) on ungulate winter ranges in Yellowstone National Park. We observed carcasses and bear tracks on survey routes that were travelled biweekly during spring of 1985-90 in the Firehole-Gibbon winter range and spring of 1987-90 in the Northern winter range. The probability that grizzly bears used a carcass was positively related to elevation and was lower within 400 m of a road, or within 5 km of a major recreational development compared to elsewhere. Carcass use peaked in April, coincident with peak ungulate deaths. Grizzly bears also were more likely to use carcasses in the Firehole-Gibbon compared to Northern Range study area. We attributed the effects of study area and elevation to the fact that grizzly bears den and are first active in the spring at high elevations and to differences in densities of competing scavengers. Probability of grizzly bear use was strongly related to body mass of carcasses on the Northern Range where densities of coyotes (Canis latrans) and black bears (U. americanus) appeared to be much higher than in the Firehole-Gibbon study area. We suggest that additional restrictions on human activity in ungulate winter ranges or movement of carcasses to remote areas could increase grizzly bear use of carrion. Fewer competing scavengers and greater numbers of adult ungulates vulnerable to winter mortality could have the same effect.
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Spring feeding on ungulate carcasses by grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park