Scientists can predict when bears will raid beehives


Thanks to satellite images, it is possible to predict when bears will have little food in the forest. Then the risk of bear damages on apiaries increases even 13 times. The latest findings of scientists from the PAS Institute of Nature Conservation and German researchers will help beekeepers to protect their hives.

As the autumn arrives brown bears prepare for the winter hibernation by eating huge quantities of high-energy foods, such as beechnuts. These little nuts allow bears to bulk up fat stores to stay healthy throughout the winter. However, the availability of beechnuts varies depending on the year. In years of crop failure, bears have difficulty providing themselves with food. Therefore, they search for alternative food resources. A new study carried out in the Carpathian Mountains found that in the years of beechnuts shortage, the number of bear damage events (mostly to apiaries) raised.

The awareness of this correlation prompted researchers to look for appropriate forecasting methods. For this purpose they used cutting-edge combination of satellite-based measures of forest productivity, meteorological data and ground measures of beechnut production collected for over 14 years. On this basis, researchers estimated when beechnut production will be low and the risk of bear attacks to the apiaries may raise. This is the first study linking human-wildlife conflicts with forest productivity measured from outer space and on the ground.

The results of the study can help to decrease damages caused by wildlife and at the same time reduce conflicts between humans and animals. As explained by Dr. Nuria Selva Fernandez, co-author of the study from the PAS Institute of Nature Conservation, most hives are usually unsecured. Providing relevant information in advance will allow beekeepers and wildlife agencies to react early and reduce economic losses.

The study was published in the Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation journal.

Source of information: PAS Institute of Nature Conservation