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Killing male bears reduces cub viability

Letter to the editor

Posted: Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Male brown bears roam more widely than females. Their home ranges are more than three times larger than those of females. Males are known to kill cubs. When male brown bears in an area are killed, other males move into the vacated home ranges. Research has shown that these immigrant males are more likely to kill cubs than resident males that probably fathered those cubs. Cub killing by immigrant males obviously reduces the reproductive output of females in the area.

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Furthermore, female bears with cubs often try to avoid areas where males are feeding, even if that means they have to forage in areas where food is less abundant or of poorer quality. This avoidance behavior is likely to be greater if the number of immigrant males increase, and therefore it is another factor that reduces reproductive output of female bears.

It is known that many of the Pack Creek bears also use the nearby Swan Cove area. If Swan Cove and Swan Island is opened to bear hunting, the mortality rate of resident male bears near Pack Creek will increase.

That is likely to lead to greater cub killing by other, immigrant males and more avoidance behavior by females. Both factors would lower the reproductive output of females in and near Pack Creek and clearly reduce the bear-viewing opportunities and eco-tourism value there.

Thus, opening even more of Admiralty Island to bear hunting (about 95 percent of it is already open) would disrupt the social system of brown bears in the Pack Creek area in ways that have a negative effect on reproduction of female bears and, consequently, a negative effect on opportunities to watch bears in Pack Creek.

Mary F. Willson

Juneau



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