Resources > Video: How Bears Make a Living Off Salmon in Kodiak, Alaska

How Bears Make a Living off Salmon in Kodiak, Alaska

Naturalist Nights 2015 | Will Deacy

The Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge in Kodiak, Alaska is home to some of the largest bears in the world. Every year, these bears gather along streams and rivers to fish for salmon that spawn in Kodiak’s pristine waters. Although the refuge was established to protect Kodiak’s famous large bears and robust salmon runs, recent data show that salmon and bear numbers have declined in some key watersheds: Fish and Wildlife Service data show that bear densities in the Karluk watershed have declined over 45% in ten years. This worrisome population reduction stressed the need to better understand the relationship between salmon and bears in this unique landscape.

University of Montana graduate student, Will Deacy, and biologists from the Fish and Wildlife Service and Flathead Lake Biological Station in Montana are now working to understand how the bears of Southwest Kodiak are responding to changing sockeye salmon numbers. The work is focused around Karluk Lake, the heart of the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. The team uses innovative field techniques to collect high-resolution bear and salmon data across a suite of streams. Will’s presentation includes a short film highlighting the beauty of bears and salmon in Kodiak, Alaska and as well as information about his research, sharing insights gained from data as well as observations of wild bear behavior. The presentation also discusses the joys and challenges of working in a remote part of the Alaskan bush.

Will is a PhD student at the University of Montana’s Flathead Lake Biological Station, where he works with ecologist Jack Stanford. Will completed his Bachelors in Psychology at Vanderbilt University in 2008. While at Vanderbilt, Will also studied ecological speciation in Timema stick insects, which introduced him to field work and sparked a revelation; through field biology he could combine his love of the outdoors with a desire to pursue research. After graduating, Will worked on a variety of wildlife research projects including desert tortoise, wolf, sea duck, Sierra Nevada red fox, and pika projects. Through these experiences he discovered an affinity for the intersection of ecology and the human dimensions of wildlife conservation. Will also enjoys being an educator; he was an ACES summer Naturalist in 2009 and takes every opportunity to talk to people about his research. When he is not working or studying, Will enjoys rock-climbing, skiing, ice hockey, and cooking spicy Thai food.

Naturalist Nights are brought to you through a partnership between Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, Wilderness Workshop, and Roaring Fork Audubon.

Will Deacy, graduate student, University of Montana

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