Use of pine nuts by grizzly and black bears in the Yellowstone area

Bears: Their Biology and Management



The large seeds (pine nuts) of whitebark pine are commonly eaten in the spring (March-May) and fall (September-November) by grizzly and black bears in Yellowstone National Park and adjacent areas (Craighead and Craighead 1972, Blanchard 1978, Mealey 1980) and western Montana (Tisch 1961; J. Sumner and J. J. Craighead, unpubl. rep., Montant Coop. Wildl. Res. Unit, Univ. Montana, Missoula, 1973). Similar nuts from limber pine are eaten by grizzly bears on the east Rocky Mountain Front of northwestern Montana (Schallenberger and Jonkel, annual rep., Border Grizzly Project, Univ. Montana, Missoula, 1980). The nuts of the European stone pine (P. cembra) are an important food for brown bears (U. arctos) throughout the taiga zone in the Soviet Union (Pavlov and Zhdanov 1972, Ustinov 1972, Yazan 1972). Both the production of whitebark pine cones (Forcella 1977, Blanchard 1978, Mealey 1980) and the quantity of nuts consumed by bears vary annually (Mealey 1975, Blancard 1978).

Pine nuts are also an important food for red squirrels in whitebark forests. In fall, squirrels remove cones from trees and cache them in middens. Bears as well as other mammalian and avian seed predators compete with squirrels for whitebark nuts (Forcella 1977, Tomback 1977).

Confusion about the ripening process of whitebark pine cones has resulted in errors in the literature on the availability of pine nuts as a bear food. Whitebark cones are indehiscent and do not disintegrate (Tomback 1981). Vertebrate foraging probably leaves few, if any, seed-bearing cones on trees by late fall; the cones remaining abscise sometime thereafter (Tomback 1981). Because cones do not abscise or release their seed in fall, bears may obtain pine nuts in 2 ways. Black bears may climb whitebark pine trees and break off cone-bearing brnahces to feed on cones (Tisch 1961, Mealey 1975, Forcella 1977); or both black bears and grizzly bears may raid squirrel caches to feed on pine nuts (Tisch 1961, Craighead and Craighead 1972, Blanchard 1978). The purpose of this study was to determine (1) the major source of pine nuts for bears, (2) why cone scales do not appear in bear scat containing pine nuts, and (3) what factors influence bear use of pine nuts.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Use of pine nuts by grizzly and black bears in the Yellowstone area
Series title Bears: Their Biology and Management
DOI 10.2307/3872534
Volume 5
Year Published 1983
Language English
Publisher International Conference on Bear Research and Management
Publisher location New York, NY
Description 8 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Bears: Their Biology and Management
First page 166
Last page 173
Country United States
Other Geospatial Yellowstone National Park
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