Bear study yields interesting results
July 2, 2007
Study results from black bear research being conducted east of Kamas could improve how bears and people interact thus making camping safer for both sides, South Summit resident Jordan Pederson said.
Last weekend, Pederson collected 32 hair samples likely left behind by bears at 14 different bait stations in the Uinta Mountains.
"These are the kind of baseline recommendations that will help us preserve habitat," Pederson said about results from the black bear DNA study he is conducting in the Uinta Mountains. "This is Utah data that we can use to manage Utah bears."
Observing the elusive animals is difficult. But by equipping each station with a camera that is sensitive to motion, bears are photographed entering the stations where they smell liquid bait and drop hair samples.
"Cougars and bears are very secretive," Pederson explained when he returned from collecting bear hair in Summit County on Sunday. "We’ve never seen a wild bear while we’ve been in the backcountry."
In its fourth year, the bear study has revealed 27 different black bears living on a 100-square-mile swath of land east of Kamas, Pederson said, adding, "that is a good population of black bears."
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Fourteen of those bears are female and 13 are male.
"Several bears we’ve collected all three years," he said, adding that in states like Vermont and Maine there is one black bear per square-mile.
The hair samples show the sex and the mortality rate of black bears living in the Uinta Mountains, he said, adding that roughly 68 percent of black bears in South Summit survive.
Pederson praised members of the High Uinta Backcountry Horsemen for helping to collect the hair. The samples will be sent to Canada-based Wildlife Genetics Inc. for analysis.
He lamented that wildlife officers needed to shoot and kill a black bear last week that became a nuisance in the popular Ledgefork campground in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest east of Oakley.
"If you can prevent it, hopefully, that’s what the study can provide, is some information that down the road can help alleviate or mediate these things from happening," Pederson said.
Meanwhile, in June a black bear killed an 11-year-old boy in American Fork Canyon and with drought conditions in play, Pederson expects more encounters between humans and bears this summer.
"We know these bears are going to start wondering and looking for food," he said. "They’re not predicting any rain for at least 10 days."
But, this year, more than a dozen black bears have become too comfortable around people in Utah. Pederson also has hair samples from the bear officers killed last week and two bears killed legally by hunters this year near Kamas.
"Every year is a new cycle in their lives," Pederson said. "These are long-term studies and you have to develop them to get information you can use."
Pederson, who is an expert in bear behavior, is conducting the bear-density study for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service.