Study Finds More Bears Opting For the Single Life

Photo: ericncindy24 / CC

More and more brown bears are embracing the single life -- at least that's according to an extensive, decades-long study of the animals in Alaska's Kodiak wilderness. Researchers have observed a dramatic change in the bears' relationship statuses in recent years, warning that shifts in seasonal patterns may be behind this new-found unwillingness to settle down and give their parents some darn grandcubs already.Biologist Bill Leacock of the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge recently presented the findings from the longest-running bear survey of its kind, and it would appear that traditional couplings are falling out of fashion in the world of brown bear relationships. "So, we're seeing a lot less family groups," he said. "Whether this is a long-term trend or not, we don't know yet."

Through on the ground and aerial observations, researchers have seen a recent spike in individual bears going it alone. Between 1985 and 2005, around 47 percent of bears were loners. In recent years, 69 to 85 percent of the animals were found to be roaming by themselves.

And the researcher is pretty sure he's got a pretty sense of the dating pool. "The assumption is we see every bear that is there," says Leacock.

To make matters worse, the growing singles-population of Kodiak brown bears doesn't seem to enjoy mingling very much either. The animals are more broadly dispersed throughout the wilderness than before, with only around 250 individuals found per 1,000 kilometers -- half of what it was in years past.

Leacock notes that changes in seasonal patterns, namely the late arrival of Spring, may be contributing to the shift in bear behavior -- but further study may be required to better assess the trend.

Climate change has already been linked to anomalies in seasonal changes, which, in turn, have had recorded impact on plant, bird, and insect species throughout the world. For some animals, like bears, shifts in seasonal triggers could throw off the balance our their hibernation patterns and ultimately their mating habits -- meaning more bears stay single and less cubs are born.

As anyone who's ever slept through their alarm-clock knows, it's hard to think about cuddling when you're running late -- that, and I'd imagine bear-breath must be particularly unbecoming after an extended season-long nap.

Via KTVA CBS 11 News
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Tags: Alaska | Global Climate Change

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