Grizzly Bear Inventory Project in Bear Management Area 1
Mike Ranger and Mike Verhage
Grizzly bears are an iconic symbol of wilderness and historically an important part of Alberta’s hunting heritage. In 2010, Alberta grizzly bears were designated as Threatened under the provincial Wildlife Act, and in 2012, the western population was federally designated as a species of Special Concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) has indicated that completing a population inventory to estimate the density and abundance of grizzly bears within Bear Management Area 1 (BMA 1) is a priority. Prior to this study, a population estimate for BMA 1 had never been completed. Preliminary set up of barbed wire corral hair trap sites (bear rub sites) in BMA 1 began in the summer and fall of 2015 and 2016. During this period AEP surveyed public and private lands within BMA 1 and set up a total of 215 bear rub sites. In the spring and summer of 2017, Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) partnered with AEP to set up an additional 39 rub sites and intensively sample all rub sites in BMA 1 over a series of repeated field visits. During the initial field visit we cleaned off any existing hair, retightened barbed wire, and applied lure to each rub site. During the second, third, and fourth visit we collected bear hair samples and re-applied lure to each rub site. On the fifth and final visit we collected hair samples and then removed the barbed wire and signage at all 254 rub sites. We made 1,238 visits to the 254 rub sites, with an average of 247 rub sites for each of the four hair collection visits. From the 42 trail cameras that were set up throughout BMA 1 we collected and processed over 112,000 photos. Upon analysis of the photos, 471 individual animals were identified, including 12 grizzly bears. We sent 3,974 bear hair samples to Wildlife Genetics International for DNA analysis. The DNA results will be used in a spatially explicit capture-recapture framework to estimate grizzly bear density and abundance in BMA 1. The BMA 1 grizzly bear population estimate will be published by AEP and released to the public in 2019.