Hot, smoky temperatures have decreased huckleberry production, which researchers say are a critical part of the diet of threatened grizzly bears.

Hotter temperatures and more intense fire seasons have played a major role in the decreased number of berries, worrying researchers who monitor grizzly populations. The smaller crop sizes could hurt deer, elk and many other species that also rely on huckleberries as a major food source. But bears, which are federally listed as a threatened species, may be at a greater risk than other animals.

“As climate change happens, we are seeing these berry populations moving farther and farther north, which impacts any recovery zones for grizzly bears,” said Chelsea Davis, manager of the Bear Center, where researchers study bear diets, hibernation, and growth.

Charles Robbins.

Bears prefer a balanced diet of protein, fats, and carbohydrates, according to a report this fall authored by Washington State University Professor Charles Robbins and a team of researchers. That article, published in Scientific Reports, found that bears without a varied diet suffer adverse health effects.

“Berries and fruits are very important as fall foods that allow bears to accumulate the fat necessary for hibernation,” said Robbins, a professor of wildlife biology and the founder of the WSU’s Bear Research Center.

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