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Ecology. 2006 Oct;87(10):2636-46.

Sexual dimorphism, reproductive strategy, and human activities determine resource use by brown bears.

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Washington State University, School of Biological Sciences, Pullman, Washington 99164-4236, USA.


Despite significant sexual dimorphism and differing reproductive strategies in carnivores, sexual segregation is rarely studied and is often overlooked in the management of wild populations. Potential nutritional constraints imposed by sexual dimorphism and differing reproductive strategies between the sexes have important implications, particularly when combined with differential effects of human activities on sex and age classes. We examined the effects of sexual dimorphism, reproductive strategies, and human activities (bear-viewing and hunting) on resource use by different sex and age classes of brown bears (Ursus arctos). Sexual segregation of habitat use and effects of experimental bear-viewing were quantified at a single site in south-central Alaska, U.S.A., by capturing, collaring, and observing brown bears at a salt marsh and salmon stream. Effects of salmon capture rate, availability of alternative salmon runs, harvest pressure, and numbers of annual visitors on sex and age class use were examined from data collected or previously published from 13 other sites. Bear-viewing sites on salmon streams where salmon capture rates were low (<4 salmon/hour) resulted in low use by adult males (<10% of all bears), except for sites with falls. However, maximum male use of viewing areas also depended on the availability of alternative salmon streams and harvest pressure. Use of habitats by females with dependent young was significantly related to the prevalence of adult males at the site. Thus, both sexual dimorphism and differing reproductive strategies led to sexual segregation in habitat use by bears. As a result of infanticide, females with young appear to prioritize avoidance of male bears over avoidance of humans when choosing habitats, in contrast to responses documented in herbivores. Because carnivores often exhibit both sexual dimorphism and infanticide, selection for sexual segregation is likely to be high. In these cases, the nutritional demands of large adult males, balanced with responses to human activity, drive dynamic temporal and spatial distributions of individuals in the population.

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