GPS study for the betterment of bears
Wildlife experts are using GPS technology to track grizzly bears and study their migration patterns and behaviors.
Bear 131 is just one of the female grizzlies that have been fitted with a new GPS radio collar that transmits a signal every two hours.
Steve Michel is a Human Wildlife Conflict Specialist and is one of about a dozen experts analyzing the data transmitted from the bear’s collar.
“It's really taking our understanding of grizzly bears and our understanding of interactions with other species on the landscape to a whole new level,” said Michel.
Michel is able to call up a two month tracking period for each bear on his computer and each dot on the graph is a GPS location marker.
The data shows that bear 131 spent a lot of her time on the Fairholme Bench where the berry crop was good.
“In some more remote corners of the park the buffalo berry was exceptional and we saw through the GPS data that literally almost all our radio collared bears migrated to that one spot,” said Michel.
Parks officials say they are used to seeing bears vacate an area, but they typically don't know where they go.
“It really is going to help guide us better in terms of where we should be putting more prescribed fire on the landscape, or where we should be letting wild fires burn naturally to help restore habitat for grizzly bears,” said Michel.
Michel says he is able to calculate home ranges for each collared bear.
“We're seeing anywhere from 250 - 300 square kilometer ranges for the females and up to ten times that size with some of our large males, 2300 square kilometer home ranges,” said Michel.
Parks Canada says the data shows that the female grizzlies in the study are in hibernation right now but the males are still active.
They say the data collected in one or two days from the new GPS radio collars would have taken a year or more to complete with the old technology.
The collaring project is being partly funded by CP Rail.