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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Where to put wildlife crossings along Montana highways has been the focus of a 2 year study along the states busy Interstate Highway 90, 95 and 200...............Only 4 of the 15 Black Bears collared for this project crossed the highways and mostly this took place at night when the bruins seem to feel protected by the darkness....................We hope that the information gleaned from this study will spur the construction of culverts and/or underpasses to allow for the bears to spread their genes across the "big sky" state without impediment..................Highways as we have learned, act as gene bottlenecks for all animals and effectively cause inbreeding and male of the species in-fighting due to the inability of younger animals to seek out and find new territories of their own

Federally funded black bear study in analysis stage


Back in June 2011, the Federal Highway Administration provided funding for several organizations in Idaho and Montana to collar black bears in order to gather data on where they cross Interstate 90.The federally funded project enlisted the help of the US Forest Service, Idaho Fish and Game, both the Lolo and Idaho Panhandle National Forests, the Idaho and Montana Departments of Transportation, and the University of Montana. A total of 15 black bears were collared and the data from their GPS radio collars are currently being analyzed.

The black bear is an animal of the forest--its habitat tends to be found near heavy timber and when it feels threatened, it will climb up a tree. And that mild behavior one might not associate with a bear rings even truer with its largely vegetarian diet. The black bear is known to kill the occasional deer and elk when they emerge from their winter hibernation, but will begin feeding on vegetation once the weather turns nice.

Grizzly bear crossing open road

But, even the black bear, an animal from deep in the forest, will emerge and come into contact with man-made constructions like Interstate 90.  It is this reason that the Federal Highway Administration enlisted the help of those several organizations to collar black bears to find exactly where they were crossing the freeway."Most of the trapping occurred in Montana," said Wayne Kasworm, a bear expert for the US Fish and Wildlife Service. "We trapped a few miles on the Idaho side and roughly 10 miles into the Montana side."

The project started in June 2011 when team members began collaring black bears at the border up around Lookout Pass. Jim Hayden, the Regional Wildlife Manager with Idaho Fish and Game, gave Kasworm and others working on the project, permission to trap in Idaho.
A total of 15 black bears were successfully trapped and had radio collars placed on them.
"In 2012, we lost a few collars due to hunters," Kasworm said. "Hunters can't necessarily see the collar due to the bear's thick hair." It is not illegal to harvest a collared animal.The radio collars were set up with a detachment device and were programmed to fall off the bears during the first week of October 2012.

From June 2011 to the programmed fall off date, the GPS radio collars took the location of the bear once every hour or two hours. And currently, it is the job of Kasworm and several others to sift through that data to determine where, when, and how frequently the bears were crossing I-90.

"Our whole goal for the future is to have the Idaho Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration look at how we can assist getting animals across the highway," Kasworm said. He added, "and how we can prevent human accidents."Kasworm is hoping that as a result of analyzing the data from the black bears, a predictive model can be created for all animals and know where they tend to cross highways.

Coyote approaching road

This federally funded project is not only looking at I-90, but highway 95 between Bonners Ferry and Sandpoint and sections of highway 200 in Montana.

So far, Kasworm has noted some interesting behavior of the black bears from the radio collars. Out of the 15 bears, four ended up crossing I-90. "Those four bears moved back and forth across the freeway several times over short and long periods of time," Kasworm said. "One bear crossed and did not return to the other side."

Kasworm explained that a few of the crossings came during the nighttime and were related to the dark of night. The night hours not only provide cover, but make the bears feel more comfortable as it relates to them approaching the highway, according to Kasworm.

"Even the animals that don't cross, we found their home range comes close to the highway," he said. "The GPS collar locations show a clustering of bears close to the highway, which seems to act as a boundary. The bears use everything up to the highway and then don't cross." Except for those brave four.

Kasworm adds that after analyzing the data, it's possible that additional signage or fencing will be implemented. Or the team will work with the Federal Highway Administration to channel animal movements under the highway.

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