12/01/2013 08:20 EST | Updated 01/31/2014 05:59 EST

More salmon may mean less stress in B.C. coastal grizzlies

Researchers have found a connection between salmon intake, or a lack of salmon intake, and levels of a stress hormone in B.C.'s coastal bears.

Heather Bryan, a researcher with the University of Victoria's Applied Conservation Science Lab, led a study that sampled hair from 70 grizzly bears from B.C.'s Central Coast.

Bryan says the study found bears that consume lower amounts of salmon have higher levels of cortisol, which may be a bad thing.

"Cortisol is a common stress hormone, for people as well, and it's essential to the everyday survival of bears. It helps them cope with everyday situations and challenges," she said. "But, in the long term, if it's chronically elevated, it has also been associated with negative effects on health and reproduction."

Bryan is about to embark on the second phase of the study, which aims to measure the effects of higher levels of cortisol on bear behaviour and reproductive health.