Cool Science
Bear's Best Friends

January 15, 2016

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Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

Researchers in the greater Yellowstone area have been working with detection dogs (and using genetic analysis and scientific modeling) to sniff out bear habitat.

Among their findings, reported in the current edition of Western North American Naturalist, roads matter. Perhaps not surprisingly, when road density increased within four kilometers of a location, bears used that habitat less.

While the dogs have primarily helped map key areas for black bears, the scientists have grizzly bears in mind, as well. As that population recovers, grizzlies will need space.

"Black bears are a proxy species useful for predicting likely grizzly bear habitat," said Jon Beckmann, a WCS scientist and the lead author of the study. "With recovery, a larger grizzly bear population needs room to roam and to reconnect with other populations."

During the study, two labrador retrievers and two German shepherds, owned and trained by Working Dogs for Conservation, located 616 scat samples from black bears and 24 from grizzlies (identified by DNA extraction and analysis) in the 2,500-square kilometer (or 965-square mile) study area.

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