Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) forests are a large and dynamic part of grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) habitat in the Yellowstone ecosystem. Research in other areas suggests that grizzly bears select for young open forest stands, especially for grazing and feeding on berries. Management guidelines accordingly recommend timber harvest as a technique for improving habitat in areas potentially dominated by lodgepole pine. In this paper I examine grizzly bear use of lodgepole pine forests in the Yellowstone area, and test several hypotheses with relevance to a new generation of management guidelines. Differences in grizzly bear selection of lodgepole pine cover types (defined on the basis of stand age and structure) were not pronounced. Selection furthermore varied among years, areas, and individuals. Positive selection for any lodgepole pine type was uncommon. Estimates of selection took 5-11 years or 4-12 adult females to stabilize, depending upon the cover type. The variances of selection estimates tended to stabilize after 3-5 sample years, and were more-or-less stable to slightly increasing with progressively increased sample area. There was no conclusive evidence that Yellowstone's grizzlies favored young (<40 yr) stands in general or for their infrequent use of berries. On the other hand, these results corroborated previous observations that grizzlies favored open and/or young stands on wet and fertile sites for grazing. These results also supported the proposition that temporally and spatially robust inferences require extensive, long-duration studies, especially for wide-ranging vertebrates like grizzly bears.
Additional publication details
Use of lodgepole pine cover types by Yellowstone grizzly bears