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Alternative foraging strategies among bears fishing for salmon: a test of the dominance hypothesis

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Previous studies of bears (genus Ursus L., 1758) fishing for Pacific salmon (genus Oncorhynchus Suckley, 1861) suggest that dominant individuals are the most efficient foragers owing to their ability to secure access to the most productive locations. We tested this hypothesis by observing brown bears (Ursus arctos L., 1758) fishing for chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta (Walbaum in Artedi, 1792)) at McNeil River, Alaska. We did not observe strong relationships between the foraging efficiency of individual bears and the frequency with which they engaged in dominance-related behaviors (e.g., displacing competitors, stealing fish, using more popular or productive locations). Although some dominant individuals achieved high catch rates, other nondominant bears foraged with comparable or greater efficiency by developing alternative strategies adapted to specific locations. Our observations demonstrate that bears may employ a variety of fishing strategies, the success of which may be location-specific and frequency-dependent. These findings suggest that physical and cognitive skills may be as important as social dominance in determining foraging success among bears.

Keywords: Ursus arctos; brown bears; dominance; foraging; grizzli; optimal foraging theory; quête de nourriture; salmon; saumon; strategies; stratégies; théorie de l’approvisionnement optimal

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2012-06-10

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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