04 October 2011 Defenders’ David Gaillard Goes Lookin’ for Grizzly Bears Posted by: David Gaillard | Leave a comment | Share: Spend a weekend in the Centennial Mountains looking for hairs from a grizzly bear? Talk about a needle in a haystack! Yet after a conversation with a biologist friend who recently appeared in the newspaper using the same technique to document grizzly bears in the mountains south of Bozeman, Montana where I live, I decided I had to give it a try (an excuse to get out of the office and enjoy the end of Montana’s fleeting summer did not hurt!). Friday evening we met at a local supermarket where we got final supplies and packed into the rental cars for a 3-hour drive. As twilight fell, a pair of sandhill cranes ghosted above us indicating we had arrived in the Centennial Valley home of the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. Sleeping under the stars for the next two nights and hiking all day long made for a full weekend and darned if we did not find and collect quite a lot of hairs, though it will be months before we know if any came from a grizzly bear. Read on to learn how we did so, and be sure to check out my homemade video of the experience as well—cheers all! —Dave Gaillard, Rocky Mountain Region Representative. Background: The Greater Yellowstone grizzly bear is listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act, in part because it is isolated from grizzly bear populations elsewhere in North America. The Centennial Mountains along the Continental Divide that divides Montana and Idaho west of Yellowstone National Park is at the western frontier of the Yellowstone grizzly bear’s current range. It also provides one of the best hopes to re-connect the Yellowstone grizzly bear with other populations in western Montana and Idaho, because of its east-west axis that is rare in the Rockies, which predominantly run north and south. Documentation of grizzly bear use in the Centennial Mountains will help managers maintain this area for grizzly bears, when making decisions about livestock grazing, timber sales and other land use activities (this area is largely public land dmanaged by agencies that include the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service). Ordinary citizens with an interest in grizzly bear conservation and the ability to live and hike through remote, rugged country can gather reliable scientific data to document the use of an area by grizzly bears. Powerful new genetic analysis make it possible to confirm presence of a grizzly bear from a sample of their scat (droppings), or even a small tuft of their hair. Grizzly bear hair is remarkably easy to find once you know what to look for, given that bears like to rub against trees and fences for a good scratch, and possibly to leave a scent mark to communicate with other bears. Post Your Comment Click here to cancel reply. Name (required) Mail (required) (will not be published) You May also be interested in Safety Pens Mean Peace of Mind in Panther Country For Floridians who live alongside Florida panthers, coexistence means finding ways to protect both their beloved pets and these critically endangered cats. Building an enclosure is a great solution, especially for backyard animals. It’s Time to Act for Right Whales Years after they agreed to expand critical habitat for endangered North Atlantic right whales, we’re still waiting on NMFS to follow through. So we took to the courts to get this much-needed protection in place. How Should We Honor Earth Day? America has many worldwide firsts in conservation: we were the first nation to establish a national park, the first to create a national wildlife refuge, the first to approve a law protecting endangered species and the first to create a national day dedicated to conservation, Earth Day. But today, we are experiencing another period of crisis in America’s commitment to conservation. When did conservation become a polarizing political issue, when it has been, for the past century, a defining characteristic of American values and the American spirit?