The capability to understand the nutritional ecology of free-ranging bears has increased dramatically in the last 20 years. Advancements have occurred because (1) managers and biologists recognized the need to link habitat quality, productivity, and variability with bear movements, home ranges, and demographic parameters like reproductive output, survival, and population growth, and (2) several research teams are using new methods to build on the results of earlier field studies. Our ability to couple new field methods and empirical field research with controlled experiments using captive bears has been central to our increased understanding of bear nutrition. Newer methods include the use of stable isotopes to quantify assimilated diet and nutrient flows within ecosystems, bioelectrical impedance to measure body composition, and naturally occurring mercury to estimate fish intake. Controlled experiments using captive bears have been integral to developing methods, isolating specific variables by controlling the environment, and providing additional nutritional understanding necessary to interpret field observations. We review new methods and apply our increased understanding of bear nutritional ecology to 3 management issues: (1) the importance of salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) to brown bears (Ursus arctos) in the Pacific Northwest, (2) the consequences of the closure of the Yellowstone garbage dumps to grizzly bears, and (3) the relocation of problem bears.
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Vol. 15 • No. 2