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Quantifying energetic costs and defining energy landscapes experienced by grizzly bears

March 30, 2021

Animal movements are major determinants of energy expenditure and ultimately the cost–benefit of landscape use. Thus, we sought to understand those costs and how grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) move in mountainous landscapes. We trained captive grizzly bears to walk on a horizontal treadmill and up and down 10% and 20% slopes. The cost of moving upslope increased linearly with speed and slope angle, and this was more costly than moving horizontally. The cost of downslope travel at slower speeds was greater than the cost of traveling horizontally but appeared to decrease at higher speeds. The most efficient walking speed that minimized cost per unit distance was 1.19±0.11 m s−1. However, grizzly bears fitted with GPS collars in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem moved at an average velocity of 0.61±0.28 m s−1 and preferred to travel on near-horizontal slopes at twice their occurrence. When traveling uphill or downhill, grizzly bears chose paths across all slopes that were ∼54% less steep and costly than the maximum available slope. The net costs (J kg−1 m−1) of moving horizontally and uphill were the same for grizzly bears, humans and digitigrade carnivores, but those costs were 46% higher than movement costs for ungulates. These movement costs and characteristics of landscape use determined using captive and wild grizzly bears were used to understand the strategies that grizzly bears use for preying on large ungulates and the similarities in travel between people and grizzly bears that might affect the risk of encountering each other on shared landscapes.