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Alberta Grizzlies have More Food, Better Chance for Survival; Thanks to Global Warming

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Oct 29, 2013 08:45 AM EDT
Grizzly bear. Kananakis Country, Alberta, Canada.
Grizzly bear. Kananakis Country, Alberta, Canada. (Photo : Jeffrey Pang from Berkeley, CA, USA via Wikimedia commons )

Climate change might be displacing many species and even killing some animals. However, for threatened species of grizzly bears in Alberta, Canada, global warming has led to more food and better chances of survival.

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In a latest study, University of Alberta biologist Scott Nielsen and his colleagues found that bears living in Alberta's Rocky Mountain region are getting fatter due to abundance in availability of food. A better fat-reserve means that they can survive harsh winters and reproduce successfully.

The study was based on data from 112 bears that were monitored for 10 years.

"Understanding variations in body size helps us understand what limits grizzly populations," Nielsen said, Science Codex reported. "We get clues about the environments that most suit grizzlies by examining basic health measures such as body size. A simple rule is, the fatter the bear, the better. Certain environments promote fatter bears.

There are about 750 grizzlies in the wild and the Alberta government currently classifies them as a threatened species. Recent research has shown that the population of the bears is rising in the province.

The grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) once roamed from the Pacific Ocean to the Mississippi River and from Central Mexico to the Arctic Ocean, according to Parks Canada. Researchers said that the study will help re-design conservation programs for the bears.

"We hypothesize that warmer temperatures in this ecosystem, especially during late winter and spring, may not be such a bad thing for grizzlies," Nielsen said, Science Codex reported. "That suggests the species won't likely be limited by rising temperatures which would lengthen the growing season and the time needed to fatten prior to hibernation."

The study is published in the journal BMC Ecology.

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