Will Deacy, a UM systems ecology graduate student, researched brown bears on Kodiak Island, Alaska, in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Brown bears are faced with a challenge: They need to consume lots of salmon each year, but salmon only are available for a few weeks in each spawning ground. However, salmon spawn at different times in different habitats, which could allow bears to eat salmon for long periods of time if they move to different spawning grounds.

GPS collars allowed Deacy to observe where and when bears foraged for salmon.

“This research shows wildlife have very sophisticated foraging behaviors,” Deacy said. “The bears benefited from variation in spawning timing, which is ultimately created by complex natural watersheds. This highlights the need to conserve complexity in wild places.”

Deacy conducted his field work over the course of five years in the remote Karluk area of southwestern Kodiak Island, which is accessible only by float plane.

Read the full Ecology story HERE.