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Environmental Implications - Other Bears


Land mammals that are "most likely to interact with or be affected by the proposed operations (drilling) are river otters, black bears, and brown bears" (4).† Brown bears use the coastal areas from April to November, relying especially on coastal meadows, beaches, and shorelines for food (4).† As they feed on salmon, and other fish, uncontaminated water sources are essential to their survival, especially during summer and early fall when brown bears "congregate along coastal streams" (4).† Therefore chemical runoff of drilling released in streams would affect the bear population. Also, if ice roads are to be built, and these deplete, the water supply would decrease the fish population in rivers, the bears would be additionally affected.†

In the case of Prudhoe Bay, it has been observed that bears are attracted to the pipelines and oil developments by sheer curiosity, food odors, or trash (4, pg. 118). These bears become food conditioned and return to these places. If this happens often enough, and this event threatens human security, these bears have to be shot. In fact in a study of Prudhoe Bay oilfields (Shideler and Hechtel 2000) , it was found that "mortality rates of all adults and subadults that fed on anthropogenic [of human origin] foods was significantly higher than for bears that fed on natural foods" (4, pg. 118).† This finding could be related to the toxicity of human wastes or to the fact that these bears had to be killed by humans, as was before mentioned, because food conditioning occurred. Additionally, it is possible that in the future, "increased access opportunities (roads and airstrips) and changes in village lifestyles or economies could result in more bears being killed for sport and subsistence" (4) especially as these animals are attracted to human settlements.
Another area of concern is the "construction of industrial facilities [that would] result in alteration or destruction of grizzly bear habitat" (4). This especially concerns disturbances created by roads or drilling that can affect the denning habitat of bears, and change food availability. This is especially dangerous if oil development is to spread into the foothills, as these provide the major habitats of bears. (4)
It also must be taken into account that bears are the predators that top the food chain, implying that any change in their dynamics would also affect that of other organisms residing in the lower branches of the food chain.† For example, if bear population is to increase because of increase access to food coming from human wastes, or if it is to decrease as hunting prevails, this will affect other species.† The major species affected by this change in bear population would be the caribou, the main food source of brown, and black bears.†† Increased numbers of bears would decrease the number of caribou present, and likewise, a decreased number of these predators would probably allow for an increase in the number of these herbivores.
Works Cited
4. Environmental Assesment, Redouct Shoal Unit Development Project, section 3.8.3 .
http://yosemite.epa.gov/R10/water.nsf/0/9316eb066fa30af088256b4b000a77e6/ $FILE/Forest%20Oil%20EA%20Section%2003A%20Affected%20(Baseline)%20Environment.pdf


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