The Bears Are Back

web_Bear-Hair-in-TrapBlack bears are back in northeastern Alabama and southern New Jersey, recent reports say.

In Alabama, the return of black bears to northeastern Alabama has inspired studies of the species’ population dynamics in the state. According to a press release from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources:

Research is currently underway in the Little River Canyon National Preserve, Talladega National Forest and the Mobile River Basin. Sampling for black bears in northeastern Alabama involves the deployment of hair snares and trail cameras. In the southern part of the state, EcoDogs are also a vital tool. The canines from Auburn’s EcoDogs program are capable of sniffing out and locating bear droppings. Once the hair and droppings are collected, they can be used to determine dietary habits, habitat use and population size.

According to the press release, the established population of black bears in northern Alabama is about 50, but black bears are moving into the northeastern part of the state from Georgia and Tennessee.

There appear to be more black bears in southern New Jersey as well, but the situation there is different. According to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“The population is too sparse to effectively survey them,” said Larry Herrighty, the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s assistant director of operations. Plus, he said, the cost to do so would be prohibitive because of the area involved.

This year is the third year that there has been a black bear hunting season in New Jersey, although that is only in the northwest corner of the state, the article says.

Read the Philadelphia Inquirer’s article here.
Read the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources press release here.

Photo: bear hair in a snare. (Could you even make something like that up?) Courtesy of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Colorado’s Urban Bears, Interim Report

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) biologist Heather Johnson recently gave an interim report on her five-year black bear study to the state Parks and Wildlife Commission, the Durango Herald reports.

According to the CPW website, the study is intended to gather more information about the increase in conflicts between black bears and humans in the state. Does the increase reflect black bear population trends, or a change in behavior? To that end, the website says, the study:

1) tests management strategies for reducing bear-human conflicts, including a large-scale treatment/control urban-food-removal experiment; 2) determines the consequences of bear use of urban environments on regional bear population dynamics; 3) develops population and habitat models to support the sustainable monitoring and management of bears in Colorado; and 4) examines human attitudes and perceptions related bear-human conflicts and management practices.

One and a half years in, Johnson has found that female black bear behavior of the 51 collared bears she tracks is highly variable. One collared female never left a three block area in Durango, another wandered for 200 miles.

Up next is an experiment comparing conflicts in an area with bear-proof trash cans to one without the cans. That experiment will begin in the spring.

Read more about the study in the Durango Herald, here.
Read brief discriptions of CPW’s black bear research, here.

Photo: Heather Johnson, courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Condor Reintroduction Reviewed

According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department:

A review of the 2007-2011 period of the California condor reintroduction program in northern Arizona and southern Utah was recently completed and identifies a number of successes, including an increase in the free-ranging population, consistent use of seasonal ranges by condors and an increased number of breeding pairs. However, exposure to lead contamination from animal carcasses and gut piles left in the field continues to limit the success of the program. The team made several recommendations to address the lead issue.

You can read the rest of the press release on the AZGFD website, here. It’s the third item on the page.

Go straight to the news with this Peregrine Fund press release. (I think it says exactly the same thing.)

On Saturday (Sept. 29), the reintroduction continues with 17th public release of condors in Arizona since the recovery program began in 1996. At this event three endangered California condors will be released to the wild.

Read more about it in the AZGFD’s Wildlife News. It’s the sixth item from the top and is followed by another release praising Arizona hunters for voluntarily reducing their use of lead bullets to help the condors survive.

Photo: California condor, courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Drought Impacts

The drought continues, particularly in the West, but the wildlife impact being most noticed and reported is bears coming into developed areas searching for food.

The New York Times discussed the situation, with vivid anecdotes. A Colorado State University Extension web page gives an overview on drought impacts as part of a package of drought information, with half of the info on bears. A Mother Nature Network story went beyond bears. It provides links to specific stories on drought impacts, such as one on waterfowl in USA Today and a Wyoming Star-Tribune piece on pronghorn.

The pronghorn piece mentions the impact on hunting, but the waterfowl article does not. Farmers tilling under crops early this year or not harvesting them at all, will create confusion for waterfowl hunters who may find that field they always hunted in off limits this year because of baiting regulations. This press release from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources explains some of the issues.

Oregon and Florida Propose Bear Plans

Black bearThe first update to Oregon’s bear management plan in 14 years was announced late last month. Most of the bears killed in Oregon last year were hunted, an article in the Oregon Mail-Tribune reports:

1,772 bears were killed statewide, with 1,346 of them killed by sport hunters and another 352 bears killed as a result of damage incidents, the draft states. Along with the 22 bears killed over safety complaints, another 52 died as a result of miscellaneous categories such as roadkill, accidental death or poaching.

The plan is expected to be approved in June.

Read the Oregon Mail-Tribune article, here.
Find a 60-page PDF of the draft management plan from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, here.
Read the ODFW press release, here.

Florida has revised its draft black bear management plan after receiving 2,500 public comments on the original draft of the plan. The plan will remove the species for the state’s list of threatened species. It will also create seven black bear management units. This plan is also expected to be accepted in June.

Read an article in the Palm Beach Post News.
Read the Florida Wildlife Commission press release, here.
Find the draft management plan, here.

Photo: Black bear, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

March Roundup of New Research

Spring is here and a bunch of wildlife surveys are underway around the country.

In Delaware:
-It’s the fifth and final year of the Delaware Breeding Bird Atlas.
-A special effort is being made in 2012 to tally owls as part of the atlas.
-Horseshoe crabs are being tallied again, and volunteers are being trained.
-The annual osprey count is offering a volunteer training for the first time since 2007.

Maryland is two years in to four years of surveys for an amphibian and reptile atlas and is looking for volunteers.

In Kansas, they are searching for lesser prairie chicken breeding areas, or leks, from the air with helicopters. Field crews will train on March 29-31 and conduct official survey work across all of western Kansas until the middle of May. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism is also asking people to report leks. The survey is part of a five-state effort, and the survey technique will be evaluated.

In North Dakota, the Game and Fish Department has launched a two-year study of white-tailed deer in intensely farmed agricultural areas.

In Maine, biologists at the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife have visited up to 100 dens each winter for 37 years, making the survey in the nation’s oldest radio-collar monitoring program for bears. This year the Maine Sunday Telegram wrote a story about it, with lots of pics. Read it here.

And in Washington, commuters have been reporting wildlife sightings for over a year on the I-90 corridor in anticipation of road improvements. The project’s first annual report was released recently, generating articles in the Everett Herald  and The Seattle Times, and coverage other media.

Photo of I-90 Wildlife Watch billboard by Paula MacKay/Western Transportation Institute, used by permission.

4th International Human-Bear Conflicts Workshop

Didn’t make it to the sold-out 4th International Human-Bear Conflicts Workshop, that started on March 20 and ends today in Missoula, Montana? The Missoulian has a brief round up, aimed at general readers. (Who knew that round doorknobs could be such a successful bear deterrent?)

If you want more info on human-bear conflicts, an excellent summary of the 3rd International Human-Bear Conflicts Workshop (November 2009) is on-line.

More on the conference from the Missoulian: an article on a presentation on electricity (fences, mats) as a bear deterrent. Read it here.

Photo: Black bear courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Animals on the Move

Feral swine are moving into southern New York State, from scattered toe-holds in the northern part of the state. (Hopewell Evening Tribune)

Armadillos are heading north, perhaps because milder winters let them survive in unexpected places.(The Daily Climate)

Bears are returning to previously-burned regions of Arizona. Arizona Game and Fish warns returning home-owners in bear-prone areas to throw away spoiled food at the landfill. This is probably a good idea for residents returning to flooded areas in other states as well.

While there have been plenty of black bear sightings in urban and suburban areas all over the country, bears are causing more than the usual ruckus in densely populated New Jersey. (Newark Star-Ledger) See this article (Nyack Patch) and these articles also.

And in Greenwich, Connecticut, people are still seeing mountain lions. (Hartford Courant) (See last week’s post.)

Photo: John and Karen Hollingsworth, courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service

More Wildlife in Floods

by Ken Lund

According to the Los Angeles Times, when flooding hit the Atchafalaya River Basin, wildlife headed for high ground — the levees. It says that even a turtle has been spotted escaping the flood waters on drier ground. The problem, says the article, is that when people head down the levee to get a look at the flooding, they scare the animals back into the water.

Read the article here.

The Jackson (Miss.) Clarion Ledger says that while wildlife in the region continues to be stressed by the floods, a recent check-in by biologists showed that the black bears are doing just fine. Read the rest here. 

Finally, not a single state wildlife biologist is mentioned in this article in The New York Times, about wildlife rehabilitators in Louisiana rescuing baby ospreys from alligators in the flood. The article suggests that denying the gators their raptor snacks is all good. Read the article here.

Photo: Atchafalaya River, in drier times.

Urban Bear Studies

Let’s make it a two-fer on black bears.

This spring, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources began a two-year study of urban bears in three cities. The West Virginia Gazette-Mail has the details. The West Virginia effort began last year and is part of a region-wide effort. Urban bears are also being studied in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

More details about the Pennsylvania study are available here:
ABC27
Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader
Some results of last year’s study in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (second half of article)
The Game Commission brochure about the study (downloads a 2-page PDF).
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

I couldn’t find anything specifically about the New Jersey portion of this study. As previously reported here, New York State will be doing work on black bears in developing areas.

There have been many urban/nuisance black bear stories in the news this week. Mostly, it’s been “black bear spotted…” on golf course, in neighborhood, etc. This attack in New Hampshire was the most serious. (From the North Andover Eagle-Tribune). Read the NH Fish and Game press release.