Shoreline areas provide early season foraging opportunities for coastal bears in Alaska. We investigated use by brown bears (Ursus arctos) of soft-shelled (Mya arenaria) and Pacific razor (Siliqua patula) clams at Katmai National Park, Alaska, USA, to identify the potential importance of these clams to bears. We used direct observations of bear foraging behavior in the summers of 1998, 1999, and 2001 to model the nutritional importance of clamming behavior. We also used previously described models to estimate the relative importance of clamming and vegetative foraging in meeting the maintenance requirements of bears. At the harvest rate that we observed (0.69 ± 0.46 clams/min), bears achieved higher rates of digestible energy intake than those foraging on vegetation. Although clams are available for only a few hours per day, bears could significantly reduce their total daily foraging time by utilizing clams. Smaller single bears and females with dependent young were the most represented groups of bears using intertidal areas. Large male bears, faced with higher energy requirements, likely are unable to efficiently exploit these intertidal resources. Depending on the relationship between clam size and tissue mass, the relative quality of clams differed by species. Bears foraging on Pacific razor clams required the fewest hours to meet maintenance, followed by bears consuming soft-shelled clams. Our findings highlight the significance of intertidal habitats for coastal bears, especially females.
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