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J Anim Ecol. 2017 Jan;86(1):55-65. doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.12589. Epub 2016 Sep 28.

Forbidden fruit: human settlement and abundant fruit create an ecological trap for an apex omnivore.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, T6G 2E9, Canada.
Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Nelson, BC, V1L 4K3, Canada.
Department of Ecology and Natural Resource Management, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, P.O. 5003, 1430 Ås, Norway.
BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, P.O. Box 1732, D'Arcy, BC V0N 1L0, Canada.
Department of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, T6G 2H1, Canada.


Habitat choice is an evolutionary product of animals experiencing increased fitness when preferentially occupying high-quality habitat. However, an ecological trap (ET) can occur when an animal is presented with novel conditions and the animal's assessment of habitat quality is poorly matched to its resulting fitness. We tested for an ET for grizzly (brown) bears using demographic and movement data collected in an area with rich food resources and concentrated human settlement. We derived measures of habitat attractiveness from occurrence models of bear food resources and estimated demographic parameters using DNA mark-recapture information collected over 8 years (2006-2013). We then paired this information with grizzly bear mortality records to investigate kill and movement rates. Our results demonstrate that a valley high in both berry resources and human density was more attractive than surrounding areas, and bears occupying this region faced 17% lower apparent survival. Despite lower fitness, we detected a net flow of bears into the ET, which contributed to a study-wide population decline. This work highlights the presence and pervasiveness of an ET for an apex omnivore that lacks the evolutionary cues, under human-induced rapid ecological change, to assess trade-offs between food resources and human-caused mortality, which results in maladaptive habitat selection.


Ursus arctos ; apex species; attractive sink; bear; capture-recapture; compensatory immigration hypothesis; huckleberry; maladaptive habitat selection; mark-recapture; population growth

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