Time-dependent memory and individual variation in Arctic brown bears (Ursus arctos)

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  • Background
    Animal movement modelling provides unique insight about how animals perceive their landscape and how this perception may influence space use. When coupled with data describing an animal’s environment, ecologists can fit statistical models to location data to describe how spatial memory informs movement.

    We performed such an analysis on a population of brown bears (Ursus arctos) in the Canadian Arctic using a model incorporating time-dependent spatial memory patterns. Brown bear populations in the Arctic lie on the periphery of the species’ range, and as a result endure harsh environmental conditions. In this kind of environment, effective use of memory to inform movement strategies could spell the difference between survival and mortality.

    The model we fit tests four alternate hypotheses (some incorporating memory; some not) against each other, and we found a high degree of individual variation in how brown bears used memory. We found that 71% (15 of 21) of the bears used complex, time-dependent spatial memory to inform their movement decisions.

    These results, coupled with existing knowledge on individual variation in the population, highlight the diversity of foraging strategies for Arctic brown bears while also displaying the inference that can be drawn from this innovative movement model.

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  • Type of Item
    Article (Published)
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  • License
    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International