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Bear Census: More Grizzlies In Montana

DNA testing from collected hair samples reveals two-and-a-half times more grizzly bears than expected in Northern Continental Divide ecosystem

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Our own Bear will be pleased: Recent research shows there are about 765 grizzlies in Montana’s Northern Continental Divide ecosystem—about 2.5 times as many as scientists previously thought. Scientists reached their conclusions after completing a 5-year, $4.8-million project that involved collecting bear fur rubbed against trees and branches. Hair collected from the “bear rubs” was then sent to a lab for DNA analysis.

Wildlife managers are now grappling with how to process and apply this unexpected result to current bear management plans. Although the bear is currently endangered, higher population numbers could lead to delisting, and possibly even hunting, a la the wolf. Like the wolf, opinions about how best to manage the animals runs hot and controversial.

The project itself garnered a bit of mainstream controversy when Sen. John McCain criticized it while running for president in 2008. Now he’s softened a bit, telling the Washington Post:

Do I detect a hint of sarcasm in Mr. McCain’s response? Might I remind you, Senator, that the Northern Continental Divide Grizzly Project produced this groundbreaking footage:

Viral infamy for ursus arctos horribilis? If you ask me, that’s money well spent.

—Ted Alvarez

via WaPo

image credit: GFick