Model Forest Grizzly Bear Research Project

Project Field CoordinatorĀ - Contract - 1999 to 2003

Background

Concerns arose, during the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (EUB) hearings into the proposed Cheviot Coal Mine, over the lack of regional data on grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) 1.

To address these concerns, provincial, federal and local land managers agreed to the need for the collection of regional data on grizzly bears. Following preliminary work in 1998, the Foothills Model Forest began an intensive study of grizzly bears in west central Alberta 2.

Project Objectives

To assess the current status of grizzly bears within the National Park and East-Slope portions of West Central Alberta. Key program elements included:

Capture and Monitoring

  • Capture, mark for identification, lip tattoo, ear-tags, transponder implants, radio-collars.
  • Monthly fix-wing relocation and rotary GPS collar upload rounds.
  • Location and recovery of transmitters on mortality.

Assess Grizzly Bear Health

  • Collect morphological data and biological samples for analysis.
  • Assess the physiological effects of capture, immobilization and handling.
  • Assess an individual's body condition.
  • Test new anesthetic drugs for the chemical immobilization of bears.

Assess key population parameters

  • Population estimates, capture, DNA canine scat collection and hair snagging.
  • Productivity, individual reproductive success and survival.
  • Timing and cause of mortality.

Denning surveys

  • Yearly, aerial surveys, October/November and April/May.
  • Den site locations, timing of construction, entrance and emergence.
  • Cub counts/observation, den site fidelity.

Movements and Habitat Use

  • Identify home ranges, movement patterns, corridors and critical habitats.
  • Assess diet/food item quality, quantity and use at various spatial and temporal scales.
  • Assess bear response to human use and activity.

Results

The Model Forest Grizzly Bear Research Project began fieldwork in May of 1999. Wildlife Technical Services was contracted to coordinate, supervise and conduct fieldwork from startup to completion of Phase 1 March of 2003. Aspects of this project are still ongoing, currently in year 12.

Grizzly Bear Captures

  • 170 grizzly bears captured, 78 marked, 64 radio-collared and 92 recaptures.
  • Captures, ground snaring and helicopter darting.
  • Immobilization, IM injection zolazepam-teletamine or telazol-xyylazine / hydrochloride, reversal IM injection yohimbine (antagonil).
  • 47 black bears captured no recaptures.

Grizzly Bear Population Parameters

  • Preliminary data, first 5 years, population has a very low reproductive capacity.
  • Late age of 1st production averaging 4.8yrs.
  • Low reproductive rate, cub production averaging 23%.
  • Poor survival to breeding age averaging 41%.
  • Adult male and female survival averaged 76% and 98% respectively.
  • Sub-adult male and female survival averaged 68% and 76% respectively.
  • Cub survival averaged 58%.
  • Marked females showed no fidelity to a den site location.

Footnotes

1. BIOS. 1996. Cheviott Mine Project - Specific and cumulative environmental effects analysis for mammalian carnivores. 122pp.

2. Stenhouse, G. and Munro, R. 2004. Foothills Research Institute - Grizzly Bear Research Project 2003 Annual Report. 97pp.