In recent decades, the increase in the population of the brown bear (Ursus arctos) in the Eastern Carpathians has been explained by the reduction of housing estates, increasing afforestation and legislation declaring the brown bear an endangered species. It has not been hunted in the studied area for a long time - the last bear was hunted in 1987. The research of the north-eastern part of Slovakia, led by RNDr. Jozef Štofík was also attended by Dr. Ing. Katarína Merganičová and Doc. Ing. Ján Merganič, PhD. from the Faculty of Forestry and Wood Sceinces, CULS.
In 2008-2010, 215 samples of brown bear droppings occurring in the Eastern Carpathians (Poloniny National Park and its vicinity) were collected in order to determine the composition of its diet, which is currently significantly affected not only by seasonal changes but also by human activity.
Using visual analysis, individual food components in the faeces were macroscopically identified. Frequency analysis was used to determine the relative proportion of individual food components.
Throughout the year, a total of 27 different food components were identified and divided into seven main groups (hard fruits, fruits, agricultural crops, herbs, invertebrates, vertebrates and others – soil and unidentifiable components). In the spring, the bear consumes agricultural crops such as corn, silage, oilseed rape, bark and rotten wood. In summer it consumes invertebrates, e.g. ants, but also cherries and grass. In autumn, fruits such as apples, pears, blackberries, plums (mainly from the area of ??displaced villages of the Starina Reservoir) and hard fruits (acorns and beechnuts) predominate. In winter, individuals who did not go to hibernation or. they awoke from it rather consumed acorns and beechnuts and agricultural crops such as sunflower, rapeseed, wheat, corn and corn silage. From a nutritional point of view, agricultural crops dominate in the spring and summer months, and acorns and beechnuts dominate the diet in autumn and winter. Compared to historical data obtained from the Carpathians, the bear currently uses food of plant origin derived from the supplementary feeding of hoofed game.
In general, the most important groups of bear food sources found in faeces were agricultural crops, fruits and acorns with beechnuts, which were more common in the diet than other groups. The composition of the diet depends on the food consumed and the geographical location. In the evaluated area, bear food was influenced by people who provided it with a wide range of food sources.
Compared to other studies in the world, this analysis showed a much lower amount of food of animal origin and energy. This is probably due to the high availability of plant resources in the area under consideration, as well as the strict veterinary regulations that restrict the use of meat baits used to hunt wolves and observe bears. The presented work revealed a much lower proportion of grass, probably due to the rich offer of nutritious crops used to feed hoofed game.
The results of the work showed a high incidence of seasonal sources, i.e. fruit in food, because after the relocation of the population due to the construction of the Starina dam, a number of fruit trees remained in the area and also due to the faster spread of cherries on the country lanes.
Thanks to a long-term study, it was possible to reveal changes in the composition of the diet, which can help the current and future management of the bear population in this area but also throughout Slovakia. It is assumed that the growing trend of the bear population is also related to the growth of the wild boar population, which is influenced by intensive feeding. Properly set up hunting management for the care of hoofed game could non-invasively contribute to the optimization of the brown bear population in this area.
Jozef Štofík, Ján Merganič, Katarína Merganičová and Miroslav Saniga, (2013): Seasonal changes in food composition of the brown bear (Ursus arctos) from the edge of itsoccurrence - Eastern Carpathians (Slovakia), Folia Zool. 62 (3): 222–231
RNDr. Jozef Štofík, PhD.
He graduated from the Secondary Forestry School in Prešov. Since 2003 he has been working at the Administration of the Poloniny National Park in Stakčín as a ranger. He defended his dissertation on the topic "Ecology and ethology of the brown bear (Ursus arctos L.) in Bukovské vrchy" in 2013. He is currently continuing research and monitoring of large carnivores and at the same time deals with the species badger and water beaver.
Prepared by: Dominika Razmanová