Saulteau and West Moberly First Nations have begun a feasibility study on the predation effects from grizzly bears on the Klinse-Za woodland caribou herd.
Maternal penning and wolf removal has helped grow the caribou population from 36 to 100 over the past eight years.
With the removal of wolves, the calf survival rate still remains low, according to a media release by the nations.
“This forced us to look at other possible causes of low calf survival,” said the release. “Research suggests grizzly bears in other caribou herds can have significant impact on calf mortality.”
To this end, five grizzly bears were captured this spring, and four of those bears were outfitted with video camera-equipped GPS collars. The fifth bear was too small to be outfitted with a collar.
The bears were also given tracking tags on their ears to relocate them in the event of collar failure. The collared bears can be remotely monitored, with the collars recording seven minutes of video when accessed.
Video data is stored in the collars and will be retrieved at later date, using a remote control to release the collars, eliminating the need to recapture the bears. It's expected crews will be out in the field in August to retrieve the collars, while analysis will take place in the fall and winter.
Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Alaska Highway News