North

Yukon researcher looking for help collecting bear poop

A researcher in Yukon is looking for help to collect samples of bear scat to help her come up with population estimates of black bears and grizzly bears in a few areas of the territory.

Project looks to develop black bear and grizzly bear population estimates

Lucile Fressigné said she wants people to use her kits to collect samples of bear scat. (Steve Silva/CBC)

A researcher in Yukon is looking for help to collect samples of bear droppings to help her come up with population estimates of black bears and grizzly bears in a few areas of the territory.

"I wanted to see what could I do to help those species here," said Lucile Fressigné, who lives in Mount Lorne, Yukon​.

"By digging into ... what we know about the bears in Yukon, I realized that we don't really know much."

She said she's going to offer kits for people to collect samples from the Mount Lorne, Marsh Lake and Fish Lake areas of the territory.

The research is funded through grants from Yukon University, and the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Enhancement Trust.

Grizzly bears' conservation status is listed as "vulnerable" on the Yukon government's website. They also have the status of "special concern" on the federal government's website.

The bear droppings will help come up with population estimates of black bears and grizzly bears, pictured, in different areas of Yukon. (Mathieu Belanger/Reuters)

Fressigné said getting a better idea of the size of bear populations and where they are can help develop strategies for protecting them.

"By doing some genetic analysis, I can figure out if it's a grizzly bear or a black bear, a male or a female," she said.

The samples can also help with understanding food trends. "I could tell if that bear ate a caribou or a moose or whatever," she said.

Fressigné said she could use the genetic material to keep track of families of bears. If she partners with researchers in British Columbia and Alberta, they could try to study where bears migrate.

Lucile Fressigné started the 'Operation Ursus Research using Scat' project this year. (Steve Silva/CBC)

"We might have a bear in Yukon that has been seen in Alberta or B.C., like, a few months ago, and that would be interesting to study migration due to climate change, maybe, because we think that grizzly bears are coming more up north due to climate change, to find more food," she said.

Fressigné said she hopes to find the needed droppings, known as scat, while hiking, and she hopes others use the kits to help her. The kits contain a wooden stick, a pair of gloves, and a vial.

She said she'll leave kits at the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society's Yukon Chapter in Whitehorse and community centres in Mount Lorne and Marsh Lake.

The plan is to collect samples until the bears begin hibernation later this year, freeze the droppings, then analyze them during the winter. After doing all of that again next year, she said she plans to make the data available to the public.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said Fressigné would leave collection kits at WildWise. In fact, they are not available there.
    May 29, 2020 5:22 PM CT

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