Grizzly Bear Research Trapping to Begin at Grand Teton National Park

by Amy Myers
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From May 1 to July 15, a team of wildlife professionals will be conducting its annual grizzly bear research trapping at Grand Teton National Park. The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team will be collecting new data as a part of the Endangered Species Act. As a part of this act, scientists monitor the condition of the grizzly bear population in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The team will be paying special attention to adult female grizzlies during the monitoring program.

During this time period, the national park will use bright warning signs around the trapping areas. In order to ensure both human and bear safety, park officials ask that visitors respect these barriers and stay out of any closed areas.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team consists of “an interdisciplinary group of scientists and biologists responsible for long-term monitoring and research efforts on grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE).”

Established in 1973, the team includes representatives from the National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribal Fish and Game Department, and the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

“Identifying the locations and causes of grizzly bear mortality is another key component in understanding the dynamics of this population,” the USGS stated. “Over 80% of all documented bear mortalities are human-caused. Tracking human-caused bear deaths helps define patterns and trends that can direct management programs designed to reduce bear mortality.”

How Grand Teton Grizzly Bear Team Will Conduct Trapping and Data Collection

The Interagency Team captures the bears using bait (often roadkill remains) inside a culvert trap. Field crews check these traps daily to see if a grizzly bear has wandered inside. Once a bear is inside, biologists use a syringe pole to immobilize the animal.

When the bear is immobile, biologists place a cloth over its eyes. This protects it from dust and debris as well as reduces visual stimulation. They then lift it onto a tarp to move it to a shaded and protected area for observation and data collection. The professionals will take hair samples for genetic analysis, weigh the bear and gather numerous measurements of the body, such as the head, paws, claws and teeth.

Additionally, biologists will record the grizzly bear’s body fat measurement. Finally, the team fits the bear with a radio collar before returning the animal to the trap. Throughout the process, the team keeps a close eye on the subject’s vital signs.

When the bear recovers from the anesthesia, biologists release the animal back into the wild. The team continues to keep track of the bear’s movements through telemetry.

Check out photos of the process here.

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