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Grizzly bears feast on diverse diet

Theres no such thing as picky grizzly bearstheyll eat almost anything they can find. A new University of Alberta study that tracked food habits of the Alberta grizzly bear living in the foothills sheds some light on the animals varied diet and their activity pattern.

Alberta bears have remarkably diverse diets, said Dr. Mark Boyce, biological sciences professor at the U of A and co-author on the study. Theyll eat just about anything.

Ants, fruits, moose and plants are a few staples of the Alberta grizzly bears diet. This new research study was the most comprehensive examination of grizzly bear foods ever conducted in Canada. Using global positioning system (GPS) radiotelemetry technology and analyzing 665 feces collected from 18 grizzly bears over a period of three years, the scientists found that the bears packed a lot of activity into 24 hours. The research was recently published in the Journal of Mammalogy.

Much is known about what bears in mountainous areas eat but little is known of the diets of grizzly bears living in boreal forests also used by humans. As well, this new research looked at five different activities the bears use to find foodwhether it feeds on flowers, insects, fruits, digs for plants or kills other animals, specifically ungulates.

The diverse diets of the Alberta grizzly bear helps cushion them against climate change and other vagaries of the environment, said Boyce. Specifically, the research team found that the bears living in the foothills are effective predators on moose and deer. They are especially good at killing moose calves during the difficult spring period when other foods like berries are not yet available, said Boyce. Mountain bears are largely vegetarian, by comparison.

The scientists identified 40 different food items, examining each for seasonal patterns of use and differences among mountain and foothills environments. Digging the root of sweet vetch plants dominated early
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Contact: Phoebe Dey
phoebe.dey@ualberta.ca
780-492-0437
University of Alberta
14-Feb-2007


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