COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho – Researchers are planning to collect grizzly bear fur samples snagged on barbed wire as part of a three-year study in northern Idaho and northwestern Montana.
The study, which begins next summer, should give a more precise estimate of the number of grizzlies in the 2.4-million acre Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem, said Kate Kendall, a U.S. Geological Service scientist at Glacier National Park.
She also said researchers will also be able to use DNA to determine blood lines and gender.
“Even though there’s been some level of bear research going on for many years, there’s never been a really intensive study to provide statistically valid information,” she told The Spokesman-Review (http://bit.ly/oMXNPI ).
The grizzly population in the Cabinet-Yaak has been listed as threatened since 1975. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated about 40 to 45 grizzlies in the area. Wayne Kasworm of Fish and Wildlife said that for protections to be lifted, there would have to be at least 100 grizzlies in a stable and growing population.
Local governments are interested in the study because the listing has meant some U.S. Forest Service roads have been gated and timber sales halted, said Tony Berget, a commissioner in Lincoln County in Montana.
“In talking to our friends and neighbors, they’re seeing a lot more grizzlies out there,” Berget said.
Elected leaders in Idaho are equally as interested.
“When you’re analyzing DNA, it’s something very reliable and indisputable,” said Boundary County Commissioner Dan Dinning. “We need to have the best available, peer-reviewed science so that we can make proper decisions.”
Cost of the study is $1.7 million, with money coming from state and local governments, the Forest Service and private donations.
Kendall conducted a similar study to count grizzlies several years ago in Montana’s Northern Divide ecosystem. Researchers collected 34,000 fur samples that found about 765 grizzlies in the ecosystem — more than two times the previous estimate.
Kasworm said grizzly populations in the Yaak region appeared to be declining, while they are increasing in the Cabinet Mountains in the last decade because that population has been augmented with relocated grizzlies.
Kendall, who will be leading the new study, planned to entice the bears near the barbed wire with fermented cow blood and fish guts.
She has already started that process: “To have the best-quality stinky lure, you have to start a year early,” Kendall said.
Kendal has chosen 800 sites to snag grizzly bear fur. About 85 seasonal workers and unpaid interns will collect the fur samples next June to September.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.