Roadside bear viewing opportunities in Yellowstone National Park: characteristics, trends, and influence of whitebark pine

Ursus
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Abstract

Opportunities for viewing grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) and American black bears (U. americanus) from roadways in Yellowstone National Park (YNP) have increased in recent years. Unlike the panhandling bears common prior to the 1970s, current viewing usually involves bears feeding on natural foods. We define roadside bear viewing opportunities that cause traffic congestion as ‘‘bear-jams.’’ We investigated characteristics of bear-jams and their frequency relative to whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) cone production, an important fall food for bears, during 1990–2004. We observed a difference in diel distribution of bear-jams between species (x2=70.609, 4 df, P<0.001) with the occurrence of grizzly bear-jams being more crepuscular. We found evidence for decreasing distances between bears and roadways and increasing durations of bears-jams. The annual proportion of bear-jams for both species occurring after the week of 13–19 August were 3–4 times higher during poor cone crop years than good. We suggest that native foods found in road corridors may be especially important to some individual bears during years exhibiting poor whitebark pine crops. We discuss management implications of threats to whitebark pine and increasing habituation of bears to people.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Roadside bear viewing opportunities in Yellowstone National Park: characteristics, trends, and influence of whitebark pine
Series title Ursus
DOI 10.2192/URSUS-D-10-00036.1
Volume 24
Issue 1
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher International Association for Bear Research and Management
Contributing office(s) Fort Collins Science Center
Description 15 p.
First page 27
Last page 41
Country United States
State Idaho, Montana, Wyoming
Other Geospatial Yellowstone National Park
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N