Social Behaviour Project
Our project on brown bear social behaviour has been running for over seven years. BBRN director Melanie Clapham originally began the project as part of her PhD research at the University of Cumbria in the UK. The project assessed how bears communicate using scent marking. The results indicated a behavioural bias to scent marking by adult male bears, particularly during the breeding season. Scent marking appears to facilitate the communication of dominance within populations, influencing how and when individuals interact with implications for reproduction and spatial ecology.
In 2015, Melanie began a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Victoria and the project moved onto its next stage. We are now attempting to look closer at the chemical nature of bear scent in order to understand the chemical messages transferred when brown bears communicate in this manner. We are also assessing how scent marking behaviour is affected by fluctuating social and environmental variables. Understanding the influence of environmental change on bear social structure will allow us to assess the effect of fluctuating salmon stocks on population dynamics.
Videos from the remote cameras used in this project also serve as valuable outreach tools for engaging bear viewing guests and the general public in bear conservation.