STATES CHRONICLE – Climate change continues to make victims and to affect the environment. An unusual event has just taken place in Alaska, on the Island of Kodiak, as grizzly bears have shifted their diet because of the changes occurring in the environment. Bears gave up on eating salmon, and replaced it with berries.
Grizzly bears in Alaska gave up on salmon
Two researchers from Oregon State University, Jonathan Armstrong and William Deacy, had spent many years studying the grizzly bear population on Kodiak Island. Every summer, these bears used to feed on sockeye salmon until suddenly, in 2014, they stopped doing it. Instead of the grizzly bears, bacteria started consuming this salmon.
Next summer, researchers observed the same behavior. Fortunately, they had attached some tracking devices on several bears at the beginning of 2014, and they were able to follow the animals and see where they went. All of them were in the hills, among elderberry bushes.
They chose a less caloric food to gain weight more quickly
Usually, grizzly bears start eating elderberries when the season of the salmon is over, namely August and September. However, temperatures rose, and the berries ripened earlier than they used to. This made both elderberries and salmon available at the same time in the year.
Bears were left with a choice to make, and they surprised researchers by opting for elderberries over salmon. This was a bit unusual, as salmon offers them more energy to get ready for winter. Instead, they preferred food with less calories. However, a previous study showed that too much protein caused animals to lose weight. Therefore, eating food with less protein can help the bears gain weight.
However, the problem here is different. Every year, elderberries ripen two days earlier than in the previous year. This means that they would eventually overlap completely with the salmon season, leading to one of the most popular predator relation disappear. If this happens, the environment might be suffering unheard of consequences.