Grizzly Bear Inventory Project in Bear Management Area 5
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 5 (BMA 5) is a priority. The last grizzly bear population estimate for this area was completed in 2006 as part of a larger population study that occurred throughout Alberta from 2004 through 2008. In partnership with AEP, we searched public (2014) and private lands (2015) within the southern portion of BMA 5 (BMA 5 South) to locate bear rub objects. In total, we identified 922 rub objects, and in the summer of 2016 we visited each of the rub objects four times. The first visit was to initially burn off all existing hair on the rub object, and then return at 3 week intervals to collect bear hair for DNA analysis. We collected 1,289 hair samples with 47% of the samples from the first interval, while 29% and 24% were taken from the second and third intervals respectively. Of the 922 rub objects identified, bear hair was found at 41% of these locations in the 2016 collection period. Results of DNA analysis of hair samples detected 38 individual grizzly bears in BMA 5 South: 17 females and 21 males. Results from this survey in BMA 5 South are currently being used in combination with data from the northern portion of the BMA to estimate grizzly bear density and abundance across BMA 5 using a spatially explicit capture mark-recapture framework. The BMA 5 grizzly bear population estimate will be published by AEP and released to the public in 2019. Key words: Alberta, density estimate, DNA, grizzly bear, hair sample, non-invasive monitoring, population inventory, rub object, Ursus arctos.