Effect of hibernation and reproductive status on body mass and condition of coastal brown bears

Journal of Wildlife Management
By: , and 



We investigated the effect of hibernation and reproductive status on changes in body mass and composition of adult female brown bears (Ursus arctos) on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. This information is fundamental to understanding nutritional ecology of wild brown bear populations. Six adult females handled in the fall and following spring (paired samples) lost 73 ± 22 kg (x̄ ± SD; 32 ± 10%) of fall body mass over 208 ± 19 days. Of this mass loss, 56 ± 22% (55 ± 22 kg) was lipid and 44 ± 22% (43 ± 21 kg) was lean body mass. Catabolism of lipid stores accounted for 88.4 ± 8.1% of the body energy used to meet maintenance demands. Overwinter differences in body composition of adult females assessed only once in either the fall (n = 21) or spring (n = 32) were similar to those of paired samples. Relative fatness of bears entering the den was positively related to the contribution of fat (%) to body mass (P < 0.01) and body energy (P < 0.01) losses during hibernation. Thus, relative fatness at the onset of fasting influences the relative proportion of lipid stores and lean body mass catabolized to meet protein and energy demands during hibernation. In the spring, lone females had greater body and lean masses than females with cubs of the year or yearlings. Lipid content was greatest in lone females in the fall. Studies using body mass and composition as indices of population health should consider season or reproductive class.


Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Effect of hibernation and reproductive status on body mass and condition of coastal brown bears
Series title Journal of Wildlife Management
DOI 10.2307/3802988
Volume 64
Issue 1
Year Published 2000
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center
Description 6 p.
First page 178
Last page 183
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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