Research

 

 

Evaluating the feasibility of the use of Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.)carcasses as sources for brown bear (Ursus arctos) DNA

Rachel E. Wheat, Jennifer M. Allen, Sophie D.L. Miller, Christopher C. Wilmers, Taal Levi


Rachel Wheat's research

I am a PhD candidate at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Myself and my interns spent the summer and fall of 2014 collecting brown bear scat and saliva samples around Chilkoot Lake for DNA analyses. From a total of nearly 400 samples, we hope to identify the number of individual bears using the Upper Chilkoot River, Chilkoot Lake, and the lower Chilkoot River Corridor, and determine the ratio of male to female bears in the area. We will combine this population information with data on bear activity patterns from over 10,000 bear photos collected using motion-detecting trail cameras to identify how bears are using the Chilkoot and if and how human activity might be influencing bear behavior.

The Chilkoot River Brown Bear Monitoring Project uses wildlife cameras that are triggered by motion and by infrared sensors, coupled with human observers, to monitor brown bears’ habitat use and fishing success on the Chilkoot River Corridor, in relation to human activity and salmon abundance.  The project aims to foster better understanding of how bears respond to different types and levels of human activity in varying circumstances, through long-term monitoring.  We hope the data collected will help to solve ongoing questions on how best to manage the area for the safety of humans and the well-being of wildlife and the natural resources. 

The cameras are equipped with night vision, so bear activity can be monitored at night as well as during daylight.  This is important because there may be differences in bear activity at night, both due to natural circumstances, and a decrease in human activity at night.  Night vision offers insights into what happens on the Chilkoot River Corridor when humans are away.

 

In addition to camera monitoring, human observers monitor bear and human activity on the river corridor over randomly selected time blocks several times each week.  Observers performed “scans” every thirty minutes, recording the number of bears and humans in and out of the river at the time of the scan, and the behavior of both humans and bears.  Simultaneously, the observer records bear presence, fishing attempts, and the number of fish caught or scavenged by each bear.  The data from these in situ observations are compared against camera data, to determine how effective the cameras are at monitoring bear activity.  


Shannon Donahue's Chilkoot Project

The Chilkoot River Brown Bear Monitoring Project uses wildlife cameras that are triggered by motion and by infrared sensors, coupled with human observers, to monitor brown bears’ habitat use and fishing success on the Chilkoot River Corridor, in relation to human activity and salmon abundance.  The project aims to foster better understanding of how bears respond to different types and levels of human activity in varying circumstances, through long-term monitoring.  We hope the data collected will help to solve ongoing questions on how best to manage the area for the safety of humans and the well-being of wildlife and the natural resources. 

The cameras are equipped with night vision, so bear activity can be monitored at night as well as during daylight.  This is important because there may be differences in bear activity at night, both due to natural circumstances, and a decrease in human activity at night.  Night vision offers insights into what happens on the Chilkoot River Corridor when humans are away.

In addition to camera monitoring, human observers monitor bear and human activity on the river corridor over randomly selected time blocks several times each week.  Observers performed “scans” every thirty minutes, recording the number of bears and humans in and out of the river at the time of the scan, and the behavior of both humans and bears.  Simultaneously, the observer records bear presence, fishing attempts, and the number of fish caught or scavenged by each bear.  The data from these in situ observations are compared against camera data, to determine how effective the cameras are at monitoring bear activity.  

The Chilkoot River Brown Bear Monitoring Project is funded by the Alaska Chilkoot Bear Foundation, the Charlotte Martin Foundation, the Great Bear Foundation, and private donations. 


 

Utah State University's results from 2000 - 2002 in Anthony Crupi's master's thesis 

Crupi, A.P.  2003.  Foraging Behavior and Habitat Use Patterns of Brown Bears (Ursus arctos) in Relation to Human Activity and Salmon Abundance on a Coastal Alaskan Salmon Stream.

You can also read the research abstract, here.

 


Research results from the 2003 - 2004 field seasons 

Crupi, A. P.  2005.  Brown bear research and human activity monitoring at Chilkoot River 2003-2004. For the complete preformance report to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game click here. This document provides many management recommendations for state and local governing entities.

 

 


CHILKOOT BEAR RESEARCH  

A formal research project was conducted by Utah State University and Chilkoot Bear Education and Research Station (CBEARS) investigating the interactions between bears, salmon, and people along the Chilkoot River in Haines, Alaska between 2000-2004.  

Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Wildlife Conservation has conducted a radio-collaring study since 2008.  Through the advancement in GPS technology, they have learned important seasonal uses of  particular bear habitats, useful to resource planning efforts.