Grizzly bear (Courtesy of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service).
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will continue genetic sampling efforts during the summer of 2022 to document grizzly bears in southwest Montana.
This project between the USFWS and several partners is part of ongoing efforts to monitor grizzlies in the lower 48 states. And the goal is to collect data to assist biologists in understanding more about the grizzly bears that have been dispersing throughout southwest Montana during the past decade.
“The 2021 survey revealed important information about the presence of two grizzly bears in their historic range near the headwaters of the east fork of the Bitterroot River in southwest Montana. Both bears were determined to be unrelated adult males from the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem. While there were previously verified sightings approximately 30 kilometers to the south and east of this location, these were the first grizzlies to be documented in this area in recent history,” a press release about the project from the USFWS read.
According to the release, the genetic sampling survey is non-invasive and uses barbed-wire corrals and remote cameras, with a scent lure to attract bears to the sites. As the bears maneuver through the barbed wire to investigate the scent, their hair collects on the barbs without causing injury to the bear. The hair samples collected are then used for genetic analysis. The scent lure provides no food reward and thus no motivation for bears to linger at the sites.
All areas where work is being conducted will have primary access points marked with warning signs; the public is asked to avoid the area if they come across a site.
The project is taking place on National Forest System lands in southwest Montana, between the Bitterroot recovery zone and the estimated current distribution of populations in the Northern Continental Divide and Greater Yellowstone Ecosystems.
The primary study areas include the Beaverhead Mountains, Pioneer Mountains, Pintler Range, Anaconda Range, Flint Creek Range, John Long Mountains, Sapphire Mountains, Lower Clark Fork, and Ninemile Divide. Sampling sites will be located away from roads, campgrounds, trails and will avoid other areas with high human use. All sampling sites are signed to notify anyone in the site’s immediate vicinity and include contact information for the Grizzly Bear Recovery Program.
Partnering agencies include the U.S. Forest Service and Defenders of Wildlife, who participated in the program last year, and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, who will be joining the efforts for the first time this summer. Non-profit partners include Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Parks Conservation Association.
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