September 19, 2020

New Study Shows Cub Bear's Chances Of Survival Improve In Areas Hunted By Men

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Can this be true? In a recent study conducted by the University of Alberta in Canada, where two areas were picked to study, results show this to be true. One area was where bear hunting is prohibited and the other where hunting is allowed. Both regions were similar in habitat, etc. 290 bears were studied over a 4-year period of time.

The head researcher for the project is Sophie Czetwertynski, a PhD candidate at the University of Alberta. Here is the theory that has been used for some time about bear reproduction and infanticide (the mortality of baby bear cubs).

Some biologists argue that hunting forces adult male bears to move from their accustomed ranges. That disrupts the social structure and brings males into contact with females they wouldn’t normally meet.

The theory is that if the female has cubs, the new male will kill them and breed with her himself _ what biologists call sexually selected infanticide. As well, rampaging males cause sows to drift toward poorer habitat to avoid them, leaving herself and her cubs with fewer resources.

The conclusion is that hunting hits bears with a triple whammy: the shot bears, the cubs they kill before being shot and the poorer reproductive success of the females who try to dodge them.

The study seems to indicate that that theory may be flawed.

She monitored 290 bears over four years in the Cold Lake Weapons Testing Range on the Alberta-Saskatchewan boundary, which does not allow hunting, and the adjacent area around Conklin, Alta., which does.

She found 83 per cent of cubs survived in the hunted area while the comparable figure in the non-hunted area was 66 per cent. As well, females in the hunted area began reproducing earlier.

So what does this mean? What it doesn’t prove is that adult male bears aren’t killing baby bear cubs. What it shows is that even though it is probably occuring, it doesn’t have that big an effect on infant mortality.

She suggests the Cold Lake bears do more poorly because their population density is almost too much for the land to support.

“The effect of (density) seems to overpower the effect of (infanticide).”

Often times, as is the case in this part of Alberta, hunting of bear has been stopped because bear population is shrinking. Bear hunting was banned in Alberta for the spring grizzly hunt because officials felt the numbers had shrunk.

If this study proves accurate and gets its notoriety, wildlife biologists will have to take another look at their bear management plans. This could mean more and improved bear hunting opportunities for hunters. I’m sure this is not what animal rights groups want to hear.

Tom Remington

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