Hair-Snagging Study to Determine Grizzly Population Estimate

September, 10 2013  |  by kevin Back »

Vital Ground contributes $10,000 to project

Photo by Kris Boyd.

Photo by Kris Boyd.

During the summer of 2012 a crew of 70 setup and monitored bear hair-snagging stations across 2.4 million acres of the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem, a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service-designated grizzly bear recovery zone. The study area was in the Cabinet and Purcell mountains of northwest Montana and north Idaho.

The ecosystem was drawn up into one large grid comprised of 395 cells overlaying the study area, each of which contained one corral sampling station. A corral is a pile of forest duff doused with scent lure and encircled by a single strand of barbed wire. Bears and other wildlife are attracted to the scent stations inside the corrals. Hair samples are collected on the wire without injury to animals.

Data Collection, Monitoring and Analysis
Crew members regularly collected hair samples and visually determined species of bear. Bears frequently rub their backs on “rub trees,” and many theories exist why they do; 1,412 rub-areas were monitored. Crew members collected and submitted more than 10,000 hair samples for genetic analysis, which will identify individual bears and sex.

The outcome of the $1.7 million study will allow bear scientists to best determine the number of grizzly bears in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem and with a high degree of statistical accuracy.

The William H. Donner Foundation provided a $25,000 grant to Vital Ground during 2012 of which $10,000 went to this project to help pay for data analysis.

A population estimate should be available early in 2014.