Wildlife Habitat Initiative in Low Disturbance Zones – Grizzly Bear Monitoring Project
Grizzly bears are an iconic symbol of our wilderness and historically an important part of Alberta’s hunting heritage. In 2006, the Alberta government suspended the grizzly bear hunt, largely based on low population estimates gained from the best survey techniques available then. Recent advances in sampling approaches have shown a marked difference in grizzly bear estimates in the southernmost bear management area in Alberta. Early results from a University of Alberta study, based on individuals identified from DNA in hair samples collected from naturally existing rub trees, suggest roughly 3 times more grizzly bears occur in that area than the 51 bears estimated using previous methods. This result suggests that estimates in other bear management areas might also be understated. In 2014, we searched more than 580 km of trails and located 415 rub trees in the bear management area between Crowsnest Pass and Kananaskis. We initially divided the mountainous terrain into 65 survey routes where teams of two hiked and travelled by all-terrain vehicle to locate trees and other structures previously rubbed by bears. We attached short strands of barbed wire to each rub object to assist us in future with collecting hair for DNA analysis. Ongoing concern exists over the frequent conflict between humans and bears in southwestern Alberta. An accurate population estimate is a key part of the decision process for understanding human-bear conflicts and for proactive land use planning designed to reduce these conflicts.
Alberta Environment and Parks, Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures, Alberta Parks, Landowners in southwestern Alberta, Parks Canada
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