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Report: Grizzlies threatened by climate change

By Matt Gray, Meteorologist/Reporter, mgray@keci.com
Published On: Apr 09 2014 04:08:20 PM MDT
Updated On: Apr 09 2014 07:01:05 PM MDT

Climate change threatens grizzlies

MISSOULA, Mont. -

A report by the National Wildlife Federation states animals that are popular college mascots are at-risk due to climate change. You can read the full report here: Mascot Madness.

One such animal is the Grizzly bear, mascot for the University of Montana.

U of M professor Sterling Miller has studied bears for most of his career. He notes that a drier climate and more variance in weather patterns will create a food shortage for bears.

Grizzlies are highly adaptable, but must expand their range in a world where food is scarce. This means humans may encounter bears more often; a set-up for conflict between species.

Miller says one of the main reasons climate change will affect bear food supply is the increasing chance of weather events that were once considered highly unusual. It's a popular conclusion in climate science that a warming earth will promote more frequent instances of extreme weather.

Miller uses an example of a very late spring snow event. "Take pollination, for example. The key berry crops can fail because of late season spring snowstorms. Those reduce pollination and that will cause failure of the fall berry crop, which is a key food for bears just before they enter their dens."

University of Montana students are trying to help. The student group Climate Action Now donated $5,600 on Wednesday to UM to purchase something called a carbon offset. The money is invested in renewable energy, carbon sequestration, and other green initiatives to try and cancel out the school's carbon footprint.

The group hopes to combat the campus's carbon emissions more directly in the future. The group has previously pushed for biomass burning and wind power on campus. Both have hit roadblocks.

Until then, they're settling for offsets.