The Salmon Carnivore Project

Three salmon in the foreground and many more in the background are seen with pink bodies, green heads and gaping mouth swimming underwater

Photo by Andy Wright and Grant Callegari.

It is important that bears not only get enough fish so they can sustain healthy populations, but also continue to confer the benefits of salmon fertilization into coastal rainforest ecosystems.

Grizzly and black bears do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to connecting marine and terrestrial ecosystems along the coast. As fish return each fall to spawn, bears catch salmon and eat them along the river banks or adjacent forests, leaving food and nutrient sources for hundreds of species of scavengers on the remaining salmon carcasses. We’re learning now that bears are also important seed dispersers for fruit-bearing shrubs in coastal rainforests, and that salmon-supported bear populations are able to distribute more seeds at greater distances the next spring.

Research throughout the coast shows that greater numbers of salmon contribute to denser bear populations because of the important fat and protein sources fish provide bears before winter sleep. This means that salmon carcasses deposited by bears in the fall may not only fertilize plants, but also support bears as dispersers of seeds from those plants the following spring.

Read more about our Salmon Carnivore program that monitors grizzly and black bears populations on the central coast. This program is supported by the Grizzly Bear Foundation.

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