Most studies of the effects of human disturbance on grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) have not quantified the energetic effects of such interactions. In this study, we characterized activity budgets of adult grizzly bears as they foraged on aggregations of adult army cutworm moths (Euxoa auxiliaris) in the alpine of Glacier National Park, Montana, during 1992, 1994, and 1995. We compared the activity budgets of climber-disturbed bears to those of undisturbed bears to estimate the energetic impact of climber disturbance. When bears detected climbers, they subsequently spent 53% less time foraging on moths, 52% more time moving within the foraging area, and 23% more time behaving aggressively, compared to when they were not disturbed. We estimated that grizzly bears could consume approximately 40,000 moths/day or 1,700 moths/hour. At 0.44 kcal/moth, disruption of moth feeding cost bears approximately 12 kcal/minute in addition to the energy expended in evasive maneuvers and defensive behaviors. To reduce both climber interruption of bear foraging and the potential for aggressive bear-human encounters, we recommend routing climbers around moth sites used by bears or limiting access to these sites during bear-use periods.
Additional publication details
Potential energetic effects of mountain climbers on foraging grizzly bears