During June 1993 and 1994, 11 radiocollared and 7 unmarked grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) were monitored visually (observation) from fixed-wing aircraft to document predation on calves of the Porcupine Caribou (Rangifer tarandus) Herd (PCH) in northeastern Alaska. Twenty-six (72%) grizzly bear observations were completed (???60 min) successfully (median duration = 180 min; ??95% CI = 136-181 min; range = 67-189 min) and 10 were discontinued (duration ???24 min) due to disturbance to the bear, or unfavorable weather conditions. Of the 26 successfully completed observations, 15 (58%) included predatory activity (encounter) directed at caribou calves and 8 (31%) included kills. Of 32 encounters, 9 resulted in kills, for a success rate of 28%. The median duration of encounters was 1 minute (??95% CI = 1-2 min; range = 1-6 min; n = 32;), and the median time spent at a kill was 14 minutes (??95% CI = 9-23 min; range = 6-56 min; n = 9). Sows with young (n = 4) killed more frequently (75%; P = 0.0178) than barren sows, boars, and consorting pairs combined (17%; n = 18). Estimated kill rate was highest for sows with young (6.3 kills/bear/day; n = 4), followed by barren sows (4.6 kills/bear/day; n = 5), boars (1.9 kills/bear/day; n = 5), and, finally, consorting pairs (1.0 kills/bear/day; n = 8). Estimated kill rate obtained via conventional radiotracking point surveys (4.8 kills/bear/day) was higher than that obtained via concurrent bear observations (3.1 kills/bear/day). Our research provides baseline estimates of predation rates by grizzly bears on caribou calves that will enhance the capability of wildlife professionals in managing populations of both predators and their prey.
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Grizzly bear predation rates on caribou calves in northeastern Alaska