Dam removal and subsequent restoration of salmon to the Elwha River is expected to cause a shift in nutrient dynamics within the watershed. To document how this influx of nutrients and energy may affect black bear (Ursus americanus) ecology, we used radio-telemetry to record movements of 11 male and two female black bears in the Elwha Valley from 2002-06. Our objective was to collect baseline data on bear movements prior to dam removal. We calculated annual home ranges, described seasonal timing of den entry and emergence, and described seasonal patterns of distribution and habitat use. Adaptive kernel home ranges were larger formales (mean = 151.1 km2, SE = 21.4) than females (mean = 38.8 km2, SE = 13.0). Males ranged widely and frequently left the watershed during late summer. Further, they exhibited predictable and synchronous patterns of elevation change throughout each year. Bears entered their winter dens between 8 October and 15 December and emerged from dens between 10 March and 9 May. Male bears used low-elevation conifer and hardwood forests along the Elwha floodplain during spring, mid- to high-elevation forests and meadows during early summer, high-elevation forests, meadows and shrubs during late summer, and mid-elevation forests, shrubs and meadows during fall. Data acquired during this study provide important baseline information for comparison after dam removal, when bears may alter their late summer and fall movement and denning patterns to take advantage of energy-rich spawning salmon.
Additional publication details
Space and habitat use by black bears in the Elwha valley prior to dam removal