Eight bear species, video


This 26 July 2019 video says about itself:

Bears 101 | Nat Geo Wild

Bears are some of nature’s greatest beasts. Learn about the eight species of bears, what they eat, how many cubs they birth, and if they actually consume honey.

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Short-faced bears, biggest bears ever


This 23 April 2019 video says about itself:

The Mystery Behind the Biggest Bears of All Time

The short-faced bears turned out to be remarkably adaptable, undergoing radical changes to meet the demands of two changing continents. And yet, for reasons we don’t quite understand, their adaptability wasn’t enough to keep them from going extinct.

Thanks to Fabrizio De Rossi and Studio 252mya for the Arctodus and Arctotherium illustrations. You can find more of their work here.

And thanks to Ceri Thomas for the Plionarctos and Arctotherium reconstructions! Check out more of Ceri’s paleoart at http://alphynix.tumblr.com and http://nixillustration.com.

Grizzly bears eating huckleberries, new research


This 1 August 2013 video from Montana in the USA says about itself:

Grizzly bear was eating huckleberry in Glacier National Park.

From the University of Washington in the USA:

New tool maps a key food source for grizzly bears: huckleberries

March 26, 2019

Summary: Researchers have developed a new approach to map huckleberry distribution across Glacier National Park that uses publicly available satellite imagery. Tracking where huckleberry plants live can help biologists predict where grizzly bears will also be found.

Grizzly bears depend on huckleberries as a critical food source to fatten up before winter hibernation. When berries reach peak ripeness in mid-July, they make up about half of the diet for the hundreds of grizzly bears that live in and around Montana’s Glacier National Park.

Despite the importance of huckleberries to grizzly bears, listed as threatened in the lower 48 states, there is no comprehensive way to know where the shrubs are located across the park’s vast terrain. Tracking where huckleberry plants live now — and where they may move under climate change — would help biologists predict where grizzly bears will also be found.

The University of Washington and U.S. Geological Survey have developed an approach to map huckleberry distribution across Glacier National Park that uses publicly available satellite imagery. Their new method is described in a recent paper in the International Journal of Remote Sensing.

“The inspiration behind the research was to map huckleberry patches to identify and protect areas of prime grizzly bear habitat. Grizzlies depend on huckleberries as a main source of food in late summer, and huckleberry distribution may be shifting with climate change”, said lead author Carolyn Shores, a doctoral student in the UW School of Environmental and Forest Sciences who also works as a caribou biologist for British Columbia’s fish and wildlife agency.

Huckleberry plants are an important cultural and economic resource for people, as well, particularly indigenous communities in the U.S. and Canada. Given the significance this plant plays in the life history of people, bears and dozens of other species, biologists need to be able to map and assess changes to the distribution of huckleberries to learn how to conserve them, said senior author Tabitha Graves, a research ecologist with U.S. Geological Survey who is based in the national park.

“This tool will be combined with future models of the timing and productivity of berries to inform managers of options for protecting food for bears, birds, pollinators, small mammals and humans,” Graves said.

While Glacier National Park was used as a test site for mapping huckleberries, this approach could be used around the world to map other important shrub and tree communities, or track the progression of disease or insect outbreaks, the authors said.

The research team used satellite and aerial imagery from two different sources — NASA’s Landsat images and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Imagery Program — to examine patterns in huckleberry plants that turn a brilliant red color each fall. Those plants’ bright, distinguishable color makes it possible to pick it out seasonally among other plants in the landscape.

Landsat satellites have taken regular photos of the Earth’s surface down to 30 meters (100 feet) resolution for more than four decades. These aerial images helped the research team pick out the unique visual patterns of huckleberries in areas where the plants are known to live, then use modeling to predict their distribution across the entire park.

The National Agriculture Imagery Program images were taken less frequently, but at a higher resolution of 1 meter (3 feet). Researchers used these images to train a computer to recognize huckleberries, then map the entire park with that learned information. Both methods rely on the bright red color in autumn that distinguishes huckleberries from most other plants.

The team tested the accuracy of each approach by hiking to areas in Glacier National Park where huckleberries live, making sure that the plants were in fact living where the aerial photos showed they were. In total, their mapping techniques were about 80 percent accurate, they found. The methods worked less well for mapping huckleberry plants that are under tree cover, but the plants are often in open areas.

This technique will also help to answer questions about the impacts of wildfire or other disturbances on huckleberry distribution, the researchers said.

“Our approach is the first we know of that attempts to distinguish an individual understory species based on color change”, Shores said. She noted that satellite imagery has been used to identify taller species, such as trees killed by beetles in Canada.

During the mapping project, they found that most huckleberry plants in Glacier National Park are more than 100 meters (328 feet) away from hiking trails, which bodes well for grizzly bears to be able to feed with little disturbance from humans, Shores said.

While this study focused on mapping the distribution of huckleberry shrubs in the national park, the next step is to complete several other studies aiming to understand the huckleberry lifecycle and predict the timing of berries. That information will help grizzly bear managers consider where human-bear conflicts might occur and work to minimize them.

“My vision is to have a real-time prediction of potential human-bear conflict areas,” Graves said.

Sun bears’ facial expressions, new study


This 2014 video from Myanmar says about itself:

Sun bears are extremely hard to find in the wild. But with the right amount of luck – and an advanced motion-sensor camera, of course – you can catch them unguarded.

From the University of Portsmouth in England:

World’s smallest bears’ facial expressions throw doubt on human superiority

First time exact facial mimicry has been seen outside of humans and gorillas

March 21, 2019

The world’s smallest bears can exactly mimic another bear’s facial expressions, casting doubt on humans and other primates’ supremacy at this subtle form of communication.

It is the first time such exact facial mimicry has been seen outside of humans and gorillas.

The research, by Dr Marina Davila-Ross and PhD candidate Derry Taylor, both at the University of Portsmouth, is published in Scientific Reports.

The researchers studied sun bears — a solitary species in the wild, but also surprisingly playful — for more than two years.

They found bears can use facial expressions to communicate with others in a similar way to humans and apes, strongly suggesting other mammals might also be masters of this complex social skill and, in addition, have a degree of social sensitivity.

Dr Davila-Ross said: “Mimicking the facial expressions of others in exact ways is one of the pillars of human communication. Other primates and dogs are known to mimic each other, but only great apes and humans, and now sun bears, were previously known to show such complexity in their facial mimicry.

“Because sun bears appear to have facial communication of such complexity and because they have no special evolutionary link to humans like monkeys or apes, nor are they domesticated animals like dogs, we are confident that this more advanced form of mimicry is present in various other species. This, however, needs to be further investigated.

“What’s most surprising is the sun bear is not a social animal. In the wild, it’s a relatively solitary animal, so this suggests the ability to communicate via complex facial expressions could be a pervasive trait in mammals, allowing them to navigate their societies.”

Facial mimicry is when an animal responds to another’s facial expression with the same or similar expression. Mr Taylor coded the facial expressions of 22 sun bears in spontaneous social play sessions.

The bears, aged 2-12, were housed in Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Malaysia in which enclosures were large enough to allow bears to choose whether to interact or not.

Despite the bears’ preference in the wild for a solitary life, the bears in this study took part in hundreds of play bouts, with more than twice as many gentle play sessions compared to rough play.

During these encounters, the research team coded two distinct expressions — one involving a display of the upper incisor teeth, and one without.

The bears were most likely to show precise facial mimicry during gentle play.

Mr Taylor said such subtle mimicking could be to help two bears signal that they are ready to play more roughly, or to strengthen social bonds.

He said: “It is widely believed that we only find complex forms of communication in species with complex social systems. As sun bears are a largely solitary species, our study of their facial communication questions this belief, because it shows a complex form of facial communication that until now was known only in more social species.

“Sun bears are an elusive species in the wild and so very little is known about them. We know they live in tropical rainforests, eat almost everything, and that outside of the mating season adults have little to do with one another.

“That’s what makes these results so fascinating — they are a non-social species who when face to face can communicate subtly and precisely.”

Sun bears, also known as honey bears, stand at 120-150 cm tall and weigh up to 80kg. They are endangered and live in the tropical forests of south-east Asia.

Social sophistication aside, sun bear numbers are dwindling due to deforestation, poaching and being killed by farmers for eating crops. Increasingly, new mother bears are killed so their cub can be taken and raised as a pet or kept in captivity as ‘bile bears‘ where their bile is harvested for use in some Chinese medicines.

The field research was funded by the Royal Society and the Leakey Foundation.

Previous research at the University of Portsmouth showed dogs alter their facial expressions if they know someone is looking at them.

Alaska wolf, bear killing unscientific


This 2014 video says by itself:

Grizzly Bears Catching Salmon | Nature’s Great Events | BBC

It’s the time of year when the salmon make their annual pilgrimage upstream to spawn, but leaping past the waiting hungry bears is no easy task.

From Oregon State University in the USA:

‘Outdated’ management plan increases risks to Alaska’s large carnivores

January 15, 2019

Alaskan wildlife management that prioritizes reducing bear and wolf populations so hunters can kill more moose, caribou and deer is both backward and lacks scientific monitoring, ecologists say in a paper published today in PLOS Biology.

Paring populations of large carnivores not only fails to meet the goal of creating a “hunting paradise” but may also interfere with important ecosystem services that predators atop the food chain provide, the scientists assert.

“Gray wolves, brown bears and black bears are managed in most of Alaska in ways designed to significantly lower their numbers,” said study co-author William Ripple, distinguished professor of ecology in the Oregon State University College of Forestry. “Alaska is unique in the world because these management priorities are both widespread and legally mandated.”

The paper notes that favoritism toward moose, caribou and deer over large carnivores acquired legal backing in Alaska with the 1994 passage of the state’s Intensive Management Law. The legislation effectively calls for cutbacks in big carnivores to increase how many hoofed game animals are taken by humans.

“The law does also identify habitat management as a form of intensive management, but habitat management hasn’t been used effectively as a tool to increase abundance of these ungulates,” said corresponding author Sterling Miller, a retired research biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “Therefore, the default tool is predator control, the most widespread form of which is liberalizing state hunting and trapping regulations for large carnivores. This liberalization has been most extreme for brown bears, as this species used to be managed very conservatively.”

The paper points out that reported kills of brown bears by hunters have more than doubled over the past three decades and that since 1980 regulations intended to reduce predators have been in effect even in Alaska’s 11 national preserves, which are managed by the National Park Service.

“Since 2000, state wildlife managers have done no studies to determine trends in brown bear populations anywhere in Alaska where intensive management for moose and caribou is ongoing and harvests of brown bears have, correspondingly, increased,” Miller said. “Basically, managers have liberalized regulations for large carnivores in a strategy of ‘kill as many as possible and hope that it is OK in the end.’ This is not science-based management.”

The authors stress that brown bears have the lowest reproductive rates of any large mammal in North America and are particularly susceptible to overharvest, and that the Alaskan government is the only wildlife-managing entity in the world whose goal is to reduce bear abundance.

“There are some places in Alberta, Canada, where wolves are being managed to reduce their abundance in the hope of keeping very small populations of woodland caribou from going extinct,” Miller said. “This is different because the objective of that management is a conservation objective and not an objective of middle-class people putting more wrapped packages of moose meat in their freezers.”

State and federal priorities for “subsistence hunting” are also somewhat problematic but only where they allow for harvests that aren’t really of a subsistence nature, the authors say.

“It is also worth noting that subsistence hunting occurs in most Alaska national parks and monuments as mandated by the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, known as ANILCA,” Miller said. “The act also mandates that Alaska national preserves are open to hunting and doesn’t have a restriction on it being limited to subsistence hunting.”

Many of the preserves are adjacent to national parks and both the parks and preserves were created by ANILCA. But with the loosening of hunting regulations for large carnivores in Alaska, the same more-lax regulations largely apply to the preserves as well, meaning predator control is occurring there too.

“Science-based management of large carnivores in most of Alaska will require the political will and wisdom to repeal Alaska’s Intensive Management Law,” the paper states. “Alternatively or additionally, it will require professional wildlife managers to resist adoption of predator reduction regulations that are not conducted as experiments and/or do not include adequate monitoring programs of both carnivores and ungulates.”

Co-authoring the paper with Ripple and Miller were John Schoen, who is retired from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and Sanford Rabinowitch, who is retired from the National Park Service.

Additional information on trends in brown bear hunting regulations and harvests in Alaska is available in a 2017 paper by some of the same authors as the PLOS Biology article.

South American bears need water


This 2016 video says about itself:

The Andean bear, also known as the spectacled bear, is sometimes called the Paddington bear, after the fictional bear in children’s books written by Michael Bond. The spectacled bear is the only bear species in South America, and its numbers are dwindling. In Peru, the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World, has set aside land as a rescue center for the bears.

From San Diego Zoo Global in the USA:

Bear necessities: New study highlights importance of water resources for Andean bears

January 15, 2019

A new study is shedding light on the importance of one critical resource for Andean bears living in the dry mountain forests of Peru: water. The study — a collaboration between the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and San Diego Zoo Global, with assistance from the Spectacled Bear Conservation Society-Peru — found that Andean bears focus much of their tree-rubbing behavior on shrubs and trees that are located on trails near water holes. Bears typically bite, claw and rub their body parts on trees, which is believed to be an important form of communication with other bears in the region. The discovery that this behavior occurs near water holes could have implications for future conservation programs.

“It may seem obvious that water holes would be an important resource for Andean bears living in tropical dry forests — however, these results suggest that water holes are significant not just as sources of drinking water, but also as important sites where bears communicate with one another,” said Russ Van Horn, Ph.D., San Diego Zoo Global scientist. “Because water holes are often the focus of activity by humans and their livestock, conservation planners will need to balance the interests of people and Andean bears in future programs.”

A paper detailing results of the study, recently published in the journal Ursus, reported that while Andean bears didn’t show a particular preference for tree-rubbing species, the locations of rubbed trees and shrubs were concentrated on trails near water holes. In the tropical dry forests of Peru, water is a relatively rare, albeit critical resource. Consequently, since livestock in the area also make use of water resources, conflicts may result between humans and bears.

This study is part of a larger effort by San Diego Zoo Global researchers and local partners to better understand Andean bear behavior and ecology. Andean bears are considered an umbrella species in the region, meaning that conservation programs aimed at protecting Andean bears will indirectly benefit other species in the Andes Mountains.

Andean bears are listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. They are native to the Andean countries of South America, and are sometimes known as spectacled bears because of white or light fur around their eyes. San Diego Zoo Global has been working with local partners to research and protect Andean bears in Peru. Andean bear habitat is being lost at a rate of about 2 to 4 percent per year as it is destroyed for mining operations, farming and timber harvest. The construction of new roads also fragments bear habitat. In addition, climate change is altering the bear’s habitat in unpredictable ways. Andean bears now primarily live in dense mountain forests, making the species difficult to study. The dry tropical forest where this study occurred is more open than other kinds of Peruvian forests, making field research easier.