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Bear Update:

Bear movements greater with loss of dominant males

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Whistler Black Bear Project

With the loss of four large adult males including SLIM, an alpha male, during 2004-05, I am seeing more significant movements amongst remaining males between clumped food sources (ski area, golf course, and valley).

This makes sense because as bear density climbs in Whistler movements become more restricted and interactions between bears (competition) becomes more frequent. The loss of dominant males creates gaps of "freedom" for contending males to move, and gain more access to food sources and females during the breeding period (late May to late July).

Males emerge from denning with elevated testosterone and begin "scent-trailing" females by locating scent-marking sites (trees, shrubs, and daybeds) left by resident females. A maleÕs home range in Whistler is greater than 150 square kilometres and encompasses the smaller home ranges of multiple females that in turn overlap their home ranges with neighboring females to 90 percent.

How many females an adult male can "hold onto" in his home range depend on his status. Alpha male SLIM could patrol and secure up to eight adult females during the two-month breeding period within his 225 km sq. home range (minimum). So expect to see adults in pairs during the next two months where the larger bear is usually the male. Family break-up will be initiated soon by the presence of males in a femaleÕs familiar area. Mothers will force yearlings away so they can be receptive to males. A slight increase in bear activity of yearlings (16-70 kg) is forecasted for summer.

If you want to learn more about the dynamics of the Whistler black bear population, a presentation will be held at Millennium Place on Thursday, June 9 at 7 p.m. Many thanks to people reporting their bear sightings. ItÕs interesting to see how residents and visitors to Whistler are progressing with their understanding and interpretation of bear activity.

The bear count is up to 45 black bears (minimum number). If you are experiencing aggressive bear behavior or to report improperly stored garbage please call the BC Conservation Officer Service at 1-800-663-WILD. Aggressive behaviors are defined as bears approaching buildings, vehicles, and people. The root of human food-conditioning in Whistler bears is accessible garbage. It is crucial that we break this link and maintain consistent proactive bear-proof management of human food attractants.

Bear sightings can be reported to me at 604-902-1660 or by e-mail at mallen_coastbear@direct.ca Thanks to Pique Newsmagazine for sponsorship of Bear Update columns.

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