Grizzly bear habitat selection is scale dependent

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  • The purpose of our study is to show how ecologists' interpretation of habitat selection by grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) is altered by the scale of observation and also how management questions would be best addressed using predetermined scales of analysis. Using resource selection functions (RSF) we examined how variation in the spatial extent of availability affected our interpretation of habitat selection by grizzly bears inhabiting mountain and plateau landscapes. We estimated separate models for females and males using three spatial extents: within the study area, within the home range, and within predetermined movement buffers. We employed two methods for evaluating the effects of scale on our RSF designs. First, we chose a priori six candidate models, estimated at each scale, and ranked them using Akaike Information Criteria. Using this method, results changed among scales for males but not for females. For female bears, models that included the full suite of covariates predicted habitat use best at each scale. For male bears that resided in the mountains, models based on forest successional stages ranked highest at the study-wide and home range extents, whereas models containing covariates based on terrain features ranked highest at the buffer extent. For male bears on the plateau, each scale estimated a different highest-ranked model. Second, we examined differences among model coefficients across the three scales for one candidate model. We found that both the magnitude and direction of coefficients were dependent upon the scale examined; results varied between landscapes, scales, and sexes. Greenness, reflecting lush green vegetation, was a strong predictor of the presence of female bears in both landscapes and males that resided in the mountains. Male bears on the plateau were the only animals to select areas that exposed them to a high risk of mortality by humans. Our results show that grizzly bear habitat selection is scale dependent. Further, the selection of resources can be dependent upon the availability of a particular vegetation type on the landscape. From a management perspective, decisions should be based on a hierarchical process of habitat selection, recognizing that selection patterns vary across scales.

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    Article (Published)
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    © 2007 Ecological Society of America. This version of this article is open access and can be downloaded and shared. The original author(s) and source must be cited.
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    • Ciarniello, L. M., Boyce, M. S., Seip, D. R., & Heard, D. C. (2007). Grizzly bear habitat selection is scale dependent. Ecological Applications, 17(5), 1424-1440. DOI: 10.1890/06-1100.1.