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Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Sciences

First Advisor

Helfield, James M.

Second Advisor

Bodensteiner, Leo R., 1957-

Third Advisor

Bunn, Andrew Godard

Fourth Advisor

Quinn, Thomas


Previous research on the fishing behavior of bears (Ursus spp.) along salmon streams suggests that dominant individuals forage more efficiently than their competitors; specifically, large adult males are the most efficient foragers at a given stream due to their ability to dominate the most productive locations. I tested this hypothesis by observing 26 individual brown bears (U. arctos) fishing for chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta) at McNeil River, Alaska, over 33 days during the summer of 2010. In contrast with previous findings I did not observe strong relationships between the foraging efficiency of individual bears and the frequency with which they engaged in dominance-related behaviors (e.g., displacing competitors, stealing fish, using more productive locations). While some individuals seemed to employ dominance as a strategy to achieve high catch rates, other individuals achieved high foraging efficiency by employing alternative foraging strategies that did not involve dominance-related behaviors. My observations suggest that bears at McNeil River employ a variety of fishing strategies, of which dominance-related behavior is but one alternative. I suggest that where foraging efficiency is concerned, an individual bear's ability to develop an effective foraging strategy may be more important than its social dominance. My findings open the door to intriguing questions for future research into which physical or cognitive traits lead to the development of successful foraging strategies among brown bears fishing for salmon.





Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Brown bear--Behavior--Alaska--McNeil River State Game Sanctuary; Brown bear--Food--Alaska--McNeil River State Game Sanctuary; Chum salmon--Predators of--Alaska--McNeil River State Sanctuary

Geographic Coverage

McNeil River State Game Sanctuary (Alaska)




masters theses




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