Physiological monitoring of free-ranging wild animals is providing new insights into their adaptations to a changing environment. American black bears (Ursus americanus) are highly adaptable mammals, spending up to half the year hibernating, and the remainder of the year attempting to gain weight on a landscape with foods that vary seasonally and year to year. We recorded heart rate (HR) and corresponding activity of an adult female black bear over the course of six years, using an implanted monitor. Despite yearly differences in food, and an every-other year reproductive cycle, this bear exhibited remarkable consistency in HR and activity. HR increased for 12 weeks in spring, from minimal hibernation levels (mean 20-25 beats/minute [bpm]; min 10 bpm) to summer active levels (July daytime: mean 95 bpm). Timing was delayed following one cold winter. In August the bear switched from primarily diurnal to nocturnal, coincident with the availability of baits set by legal hunters. Activity in autumn was higher when the bear was with cubs. Birthing of cubs in January was identified by a transient increase in HR and activity. Long-Term physiological and behavioral monitoring is valuable for understanding adaptations of free-ranging animals to climate change, food availability, and human-related stressors.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Karen Noyce and Brian Dirks of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Mark Ditmer and Tinen Iles of the University of Minnesota for assistance in the field work. This work was supported by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the University of Minnesota Biomedical Engineering Institute, Institute for Engineering in Medicine, and Department of Surgery. Medtronic plc donated the devices used in the research.