Black bears that live around urban areas weigh more, get pregnant at a younger age, and are more likely to die violent deaths, according to a study by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
© iStockphoto/Ling XiaWild black bear searching for food at a garbage dump. A life of garbage, early pregnancies and violent deaths plague big city bears.
The study, published in the Fall 2008 issue of the journal Human-Wildlife Conflicts
, tracked 12 bears over a 10-year period living in urban areas around Lake Tahoe, Nevada and compared them to 10 "wildland" bears that lived in outlying wild areas. The authors found that bears in urbanized areas weighed an average of 30 percent more than bears in wild areas due to a diet heavily supplemented by garbage.
The authors believe that because the bears weigh more they are giving birth at an earlier age - on average when they are between 4-5 years old, as compared to 7-8 years for bears in wild areas. Some urban bears even reproduced as early as 2-3 years of age around Lake Tahoe.
Urban bears also tend to die much younger due mostly to collisions with vehicles, according to the study. All 12 urban bears tracked by the researcher were dead by age 10 due to vehicle collisions, while six of the wildland bears still survived. Bear cubs in urban areas also had dramatically higher mortality rates due mainly to vehicle collisions.