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Researcher talks bears

Wednesday, 25 May 2016. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

Researcher talks bears

Elizabeth Anderson of the Crowsnest Conservation Society, left, and University of Alberta grad student Annie Loosen prepare for their recent bear presentation at Isabelle Sellon School.   Photo by Brad Quarin


Researcher talks bears


By Brad Quarin

Last week, the children of Horace Allen and Isabelle Sellon schools in Crowsnest Pass learned more about bears — and shared what they already knew.

University of Alberta grad student Annie Loosen and Crowsnest Conservation Society member Elizabeth Anderson visited the schools to discuss the latest from the bear hair project.

“They were a very receptive, warm audience,” Annie says. “People get excited about bears.”

Annie has been monitoring grizzly and black bear populations south of Highway 3, measuring their numbers by studying hairs left on bear rub objects.

Bears rub against trees, power poles and fence posts to communicate with each other. Researchers analyze the DNA in hairs left behind, identifying the species, the individual and the sex of the individual. In this way, they can approximate the total numbers in a given area.

Delighted ISS students laughed at a video set to music, showing bears sharing a rub tree.

Annie explains her project is piggybacking on the work of Andrea Morehouse, whose research began in 2011.

Originally concerned only with grizzlies, Annie became more involved because 40 per cent of the hair found was from black bears.

Elizabeth also explained why it’s important to know how many bears are out there, and what happens when attractants bring bears to town.

When asked, the ISS children explained several differences between grizzlies and black bears, noting grizzlies have humps and are generally bigger.

They knew the word DNA and many said they had seen rub trees.

The children at HAS were also excited, and shared their stories. Elizabeth sums them up: “There was a bear in my neighbourhood, or a bear in my backyard, or a bear in my house.”

The last one may have been a little exaggerated, but it speaks to the enthusiasm of the young learners in bear country.


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From the May 25, 2016 print edition of Shootin’ the Breeze.

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