WWETAC Projects

Project Title:  Assessing grizzly bear status on the Kootenai and Idaho Panhandle National Forests

Principal Investigator:  
C. Quinn Carver, Natural Resources Staff Officer, Kootenai NF


Collaborators:   Lydia Allen, Forest Wildlife Biologist, Idaho Panhandle NF; Randy Hojem, Lola NF; Kate Kendall, Research Ecologist I Mike Mitchell, Leader of Wildlife Coop. Research Unit, USGS; Rick Mace and Kim Annis, MT Fish, Wildlife and Parks; Wayne Wakkinen, Wildlife Biologist, Idaho Fish and Game; Wayne Kasworm, US FWS; Lon Postulka, US Customs and Border Protection; Norm Merz, Kootenai Tribe of ID; Garth Mowat, Wildlife biologist, British Columbia Ministry of Environment; Mike Proctor, Wildlife Biologist, Birchdale Ecological {contract researcher for BC/Aiberta); Ron Downey, Commissioner, Lincoln Co., Libby, MT; Carol Brooker, Comm., Sanders Co., Thompson Falls, MT; Dan Denning, Comm., Boundary Co., Bonners Ferry, ID; Doug Roll, Mayor, Libby, MT; Mines Mgmt Inc. (Montanore Mine); Revett Minerals; Plum Creek Timber Co.; Chapel Cr Timber Co.p Idaho Forest Group (Riley Cr Timber Co.); Kootenai River Development Council; Cabinet Back Country Horsemen; Yaak Forest Council; Libby Archery Club; Kootenai Valley Resource Initiative (industry, environmental, tribal, state/federal agencies); Selkirk/Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear Managers Subc. of Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee

Key Issues/Problem Addressed:                              

Grizzly bear recovery is the primary consideration in the management of the Kootenai, Idaho Panhandle and Lolo National Forests. All three forests have active integrated vegetation management programs and are addressing a myriad of threats (insects, disease, changing uses, etc ). Addressing all of these threats must satisfy recovery goals of the grizzly as an integrated goal. Until some of the answers to the questions surrounding the bear are answered definitively, the ability to address the other threats is limited by legal challenge
Setting and Approach:  

The grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) population in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem (CYE) in northwestern Montana and northern Idaho was designated Threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1975 and was found to be warranted for Endangered status in 1993. Information has been collected on this population since the late 1970's.  Demographic data available include the number, location and cause of mortality, population trend, survival and reproductive rates, and minimum counts.  Based on accumulated knowledge from trapping, observations, radio telemetry, DNA sampling at hair trap sites, and other sources, population size in the CYE Recovery Zone is estimated to be 30-40.  However, resources have not been available to sample the population intensively enough during one year to produce a population-wide estimate of grizzly bear abundance with a measure of precision.  Agencies need a statistically rigorous baseline of population size and distribution to develop and assess policies and practices designed to promote population recovery.

The sampling design will be based on the overarching need to maximize detection rates given the probable small size of the population and need for precise data. Decisions about the design of sampling that will be conducted in 2012 will be based on an analysis of predicted estimate bias and precision given: 1) various sampling site densities, 2) DNA detection rates for populations of similar small size in the Rocky Mountains in the US and Canada, 3) two concurrent hair collection methods (baited hair traps and natural bear rub-to increase sample coverage) and 4) number of sampling sessions. Bear rubs will be identified and set up in 2011 to prepare for sample collection in 2012. Short pieces of wire will be mounted on the rub surface to facilitate hair collection, maximize the quantity of DNA in the samples, and help separate hair samples from multiple bears rubbing at one site. We anticipate identifying 1,500·2,000 bear rubs in 2011.

Progress to Date:

The Grizzly Bear DNA Study Plan has been created which outlines the next step of this work and a map of the rubs that have been identified for hair collection in addition to the baited sites indicates the sites that where data was collected over the summer of 2012.

Analysis of the statistical power of study designs incorporating a range of sampling intensity and frequency is needed to ensure that study design provides a sound tradeoff between cost and estimate rigor and the study is likely to produce results that are sufficiently precise to be useful to management. Identifying and setting up bear rubs the year prior to hair sample collection is necessary to conduct bear rub sessions concurrently with hair trap sampling occasions. When the study expanded to incorporate occupied grizzly bear range on national forest lands outside the grizzly bear recovery zone, the original budget became inadequate to ensure that bear rubs could be set up in all areas. This project will ensure that the entire study area can be sampled with both hair snagging methods which will increase the proportion of the population detected and improve estimate precision.

WWETAC ID:      FY11NG90