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1 May 2016 Geophagy by brown bears in the Russian Far East
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Abstract

Brown bears (Ursus arctos) occasionally engage in geophagy, the act of purposefully ingesting lithogenic mineral substances. From 1999 to 2013, we collected samples from 4,619 brown bear scats from 3 regions of the Russian Far East (Kamchatka, Primorsky Krai, Sakhalin) in order to better understand geophagy in this species. Depending on region collected, soils were detected in 1–5.2% of samples. The greatest soil concentrations were found in scats from Sakhalin in August and September, the same months when Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) play a dominant role in seasonal brown bear diets there. Of the 207 Sakhalin scats with soil content, nearly all (87%) also contained fish remains. A chemical analysis of samples suggested that the soils being purposefully consumed by brown bears are clay-like substances from the illuviated soil horizon—minerals that most likely aid the bears in preventing diarrhea by helping excrete excessive amounts of phosphorus inherent in a fish-heavy diet.

© 2016 International Association for Bear Research and Management
Ivan V. Seryodkin, Alexander M. Panichev, and Jonathan C. Slaght "Geophagy by brown bears in the Russian Far East," Ursus 27(1), 11-17, (1 May 2016). https://doi.org/10.2192/URSUS-D-15-00014.1
Received: 28 April 2015; Accepted: 1 April 2016; Published: 1 May 2016
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