Grizzly bear in Yellowstone. (Photo courtesy
PULLMAN, Wash. – A new study suggests that the return of wolves to Yellowstone National Park is increasing a key part of the grizzly bear diet – berries that help bears put on fat before going into hibernation. Wolves reduce the number of elk, which eat the berry bushes.
The study was published this week by scientists from Washington State University and Oregon State University in the Journal of Animal Ecology. WSU co-authors are graduate assistant Jennifer K. Fortin and Charles T. Robbins, professor in the WSU School of the Environment.
The report said berries may be sufficiently important to grizzly bear diet and health that they could be considered in legal disputes – as is white pine nut availability – about whether or not to change the “threatened” status of grizzly bears under the federal Endangered Species Act.