Study: urban black bears 'live fast, die young'

September 30, 2008

Black bears that live around urban areas weigh more, get pregnant at a younger age, and are more likely to die violent deaths, according to a study by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

The study, published in the Fall 2008 issue of the journal Human-Wildlife Conflicts, tracked 12 bears over a 10-year period living in urban areas around Lake Tahoe, Nevada and compared them to 10 "wildland" bears that lived in outlying wild areas. The authors found that bears in urbanized areas weighed an average of 30 percent more than bears in wild areas due to a diet heavily supplemented by garbage. The authors believe that because the bears weigh more they are giving birth at an earlier age – on average when they are between 4-5 years old, as compared to 7-8 years for bears in wild areas. Some urban bears even reproduced as early as 2-3 years of age around Lake Tahoe.

Urban bears also tend to die much younger due mostly to collisions with vehicles, according to the study. All 12 urban bears tracked by the researcher were dead by age 10 due to vehicle collisions, while six of the wildland bears still survived. Bear cubs in urban areas also had dramatically higher mortality rates due mainly to vehicle collisions.

"Urban areas are becoming the ultimate bear traps," said Wildlife Conservation Society researcher Jon Beckmann, the study's lead author. "Because of an abundant food source – namely garbage – bears are being drawn in from backcountry areas into urbanized landscapes where they meet their demise."

The study warns that urbanized areas are functioning as "sinks" for black bear populations, drawing in bears from outlying wild areas, where they ultimately die. As a result, bears are failing to re-colonize outlying wild areas following this shift to urban centers.

The authors believe that without these sinks, populations of black bears in Nevada could increase. Right now, populations in Nevada remain steady due to bears immigrating from neighboring California. The Wildlife Conservation Society is studying the effects of urbanization and sprawl on a variety of wildlife and habitats in North America. WCS continues to work with local authorities to increase the use of bear-proof garbage containers and improve education efforts to reduce human-bear conflicts.

Source: Wildlife Conservation Society

Explore further: Cities adapt to growing ranks of coyotes, cougars and other urban wildlife

Related Stories

Claims about the decline of the West are 'exaggerated'

April 27, 2015

A new paper by Oxford researchers argues that some countries in Western Europe, and the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand now have birth rates that are now relatively close to replacement, that the underlying trend in ...

Vanishing big trees put Australia's urban wildlife in peril

January 13, 2015

Across Australia - and the world - the future of large old trees is bleak and yet large trees support many species such as birds and small mammals, says Mr Darren Le Roux, a PhD student at the ARC Centre of Excellence for ...

Recommended for you

Innovations from the wild world of optics and photonics

August 2, 2015

Traditional computers manipulate electrons to turn our keystrokes and Google searches into meaningful actions. But as components of the computer processor shrink to only a few atoms across, those same electrons become unpredictable ...

Shedding light on millipede evolution

August 2, 2015

As an National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded entomologist, Virginia Tech's Paul Marek has to spend much of his time in the field, hunting for rare and scientifically significant species. He's provided NSF with an inside ...

Better together: graphene-nanotube hybrid switches

August 2, 2015

Graphene has been called a wonder material, capable of performing great and unusual material acrobatics. Boron nitride nanotubes are no slackers in the materials realm either, and can be engineered for physical and biological ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Sophos
not rated yet Sep 30, 2008
"Black bears that live around urban areas weigh more, get pregnant at a younger age, and are more likely to die violent deaths"

WOW just like humans
bobwinners
not rated yet Sep 30, 2008
Gotta be that urban lifestyle!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.