Ecology of kiɁlawnaɁ

Like humans, kiɁlawnaɁ are omnivores that rely upon a wide range of food resources. Grizzly bear diets fluctuate seasonally as they forage on vegetation, grasses, plant roots, berries, nuts, fish, insects, and mammals. They require large tracts of productive and connected habitat to meet their nutritional requirements, along with their needs for security, reproduction, and denning. Consequently, grizzly bears occupy large home ranges that cover a variety of ecosystems spanning in elevations from valley bottoms to alpine habitats.

Grizzly bears have developed remarkable adaptations in response to limited winter foraging opportunities. Denning through the winter, they enter a state of hibernation and sustain themselves by using energy stored in the body fat they accumulated over late summer and fall – a crucial foraging period for bears. Access to nutritious foods during these months determine pre-denning body condition and directly influences mortality rates and reproductive success in individuals, which ultimately determine health of the entire population. Bear mortality rates tend to increase in years when nutritious foods are limited as they must travel farther to forage and are at risk of human-bear conflicts or starvation. Reproductive rates in bears are also closely linked with the availability of high-quality summer and fall foods, as pre-denning body condition of smx̌ikn (female grizzly bear) directly influences her ability to birth and support cubs over the winter.

Coupled with having very low reproductive rates, grizzly bears also exhibit low natal dispersal relative to most other mammals. On average, female bears become reproductive around five years old and tend to have small litters once every 3 or 4 years. When mature enough to leave their mother’s care, young bears disperse and establish their own home ranges, though female offspring remain close to their mothers and establish overlapping home ranges.

The limited reproduction and dispersal characteristics of grizzly bears, combined with their need for large tracts of connected habitat and nutritious forage, make them particularly vulnerable to impacts from humans including habitat fragmentation, high road densities and other associated activities. However, the adaptability of kiɁlawnaɁ gives hope for reversing declining population trends. Through strategic habitat restoration activities and growing support for improving human-bear coexistence.

Please Note: The photo on this webpage was taken near Manning Provincial Park on October 13, 2015 by John-Ashley Price.