Mama bear appears to know what's best when it comes to selecting a place to call home, according to a new University of Alberta study.
The research, which may ultimately help protect Alberta's dwindling population of grizzly bears, is among the first of its kind to test the nature-versus-nurture debate on how large, free-ranging wildlife select habitat.
The grizzly study, conducted in the foothills of west-central Alberta, tracked 32 adult and young grizzly bears that had been fitted with GPS radio collars. The animals' movements were monitored from 31,849 locations spanning 9,752 square kilometres.
Nielsen and his team observed that genetically related female bears shared habitat selection patterns regardless of their location, whereas male bears related to one another did not.
According to the lead scientist, "This suggests that there are different habitat selection strategies used by grizzly bears and that these are learned early in life, because male bears don't participate in parental care".
The grizzly is considered a threatened species in Alberta (there are fewer than 700 in the province), and if their habitat-use strategies are indeed learned from early experiences, then the habitats chosen for relocation of 'problem' bears or to supplement threatened populations would be important.