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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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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Kate Kendall has been on the cutting edge of Grizzly Bear Research for 35 years(retiring this year) with THE NATIONAL GEOLOGICAL SURVEY and has pioneered work in non-invasive Bruin research including genetic analysis of hair samples..............She has headed up the NORTHERN DIVIDE ECOSYSTEM GRIZZLY POPULATION SURVEY, THE GREATER GLACIER BEAR PROJECT and currently THE CABINET-YAAK ECOSYSTEM STUDY............Her outstanding and focused studies are seen as providing the truest population count of Grizzly Bears in the USA.............Kate was one of the first women to propel to prominence in historically what had been a field dominated by men............Kate, we look forward to to your Caibinet-Yaak results,,,,,,,,,,,,Griz in this northern most Montana region are the most threatened in our Country.................Best of luck to you!

Longtime Glacier Park grizzly bear biologist to retire

Kate Kendall, a longtime grizzly bear biologist for the U.S. National Park Service, is set retire at the end of May concluding at 35-year career.

 • By Tristan Scott

COLUMBIA FALLS – Kate Kendall laid the groundwork for modern grizzly bear population studies in northwest Montana and, with a career that spanned 35 years, pioneered a brave new path for women in a male-dominated field.

The U.S. Geological Survey scientist at Glacier National Park will retire at the end of May. She recently had the opportunity to divine influence in a group of middle and high school-aged girls as the keynote speaker at an event in Helena, hosted by a national program called Girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), whose goal is to encourage young women to pursue careers in those specialized fields.

“There is still resistance to women in the field, particularly in upper management. The bar is a lot higher,” said Kendall, whose 1970 undergraduate class at the University of Virginia was the first to admit women. “I was so impressed with the composure and knowledge of these girls. It was satisfying to be able to offer some encouragement.”

Kendall is best known for her pioneering work in grizzly bear DNA research, and has been at the vanguard of grizzly bear population studies in northwest Montana, helping to introduce non-invasive research techniques and inform wildlife management in a field that, until recently, lacked strong data.

In 2004, Kendall used a non-invasive bear-hair collection research method to estimate the number of grizzly bears roaming Montana’s Northern Divide Ecosystem, an 8 million-acre study area that encompasses Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex, and which is one of the last strongholds of grizzly bears in the Lower 48 states.

That study relied on 34,000 fur samples to parse out an estimated 765 individual grizzlies in the ecosystem – more than two times the previous estimates. “We collected a lot of bear hair,” she said.

Besides zeroing in on a population estimate, the DNA revealed other specifics about individual bears, like genetic structure, gender, survival rate, regional density and their relationships with other bears, critical information that eluded scientists for years. “We couldn’t even tell species apart at one point, much less individuals or sex,” she said.

DNA contained in the bear hair now identifies individual grizzlies and yields a more precise estimate of the entire population of bruins that call northwest Montana home.

As agencies strived to recover the species, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed as threatened in 1975, Kendall recognized early on the need to assess the population size, trend, survival rate, and identify corridors that link segregated populations.

Her first job was with the National Park Service’s chief of science office, at a time when conflicts between humans and grizzly bear were on the rise in Yellowstone National Park, and bear management was a central, if uninformed, agency issue. She became executive secretary to the chief scientist office, which had just established the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee.

After 3 1/2 years in that role, she transferred to Montana State University in Bozeman for her graduate work, and spearheaded a project looking at the relationship between bears and the seeds from whitebark pine trees, a key food source, which were being decimated by a fungus called blister rust. She helped document the decline of whitebark pine trees, and established their importance to grizzly and black bear survival.

The field work involved hiking in the backcountry and radio-collaring bears, which was a departure from her work in Washington, D.C., and an exhilarating experience, she said.

“I loved it. It was part of the allure of a career in bear studies and having the opportunity to explore Yellowstone National Park and that greater region,” she said.

Still, she was interested in experimenting with less-invasive research methods, and in 1982 she accepted a position with Glacier National Park, where the bear management philosophy was more laissez-faire.

“I was interested in finding non-invasive ways to monitor bears, and each park has its own culture and philosophy. Fatalities and maulings in Glacier National Park were more common then, and the park staff thought it better to not handle the bears,” she said. “I think it’s always better if you don’t have to handle a bear. It’s better for the health and fitness and it’s less stressful.”

In the 1990s, scientists in British Columbia made a breakthrough in genetics testing, and used barbed-wire hair snags to collect tufts of the bruins’ hair. Learning of the research, Kendall wrote a proposal and received three years of funding, which led to the Greater Glacier Bear Project, which covered Glacier Park, the Whitefish Range and the western edge of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Lacking the money for genetics testing, Kendall wrote another proposal and received a grant for $1.1 million.

“There was just this revolution in genetics, and we were able to adopt and apply it to wildlife biology,” she said.

By 2000, Kendall’s research focused on a 2 million-acre study area, the largest DNA study to date. She collected 5,500 hair samples over a two-year period, using 618 hair traps. In the first year, the study yielded a “snapshot” population estimate of 300 bears, while the second year suggested a population of 330 bears. Using radio-telemetry to track the bears’ movement, the population estimate was adjusted to 240 bears.

In addition to the bait-scented wire corrals, which attract bears using a putrid mash of fish and blood – Kendall fermented 150 barrels of the lure for a year, and says the technique is preferable because the bears do not receive a food reward – her team also identified bear rub trees and used pieces of wire to collect the hair.

Her next research effort, the Northern Divide Bear Project, would quadruple the size of the study area, and became the largest study of its kind in North America. After collecting more than 34,000 hair samples from both wire corrals and rub trees, coordinating “a small army” of 240 employees for the project and awaiting 2 1/2 years of lab work, she was able to estimate a population of 756 bears – the first reliable estimate for the ecosystem and a critical piece of information to inform long-term grizzly bear management.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks estimates the bear population will grow approximately 3 percent every year, which puts the current NCDE population at between 900 and 1,000 bears.

“It was a mammoth operation,” she said. “Two million acres was much larger than any DNA study, and we quadrupled that.” She was also hyper-aware of the implications the study would have on the future of grizzly bear management.

“I knew that the data we collected would be used if grizzlies were ever proposed for delisting, and that it would be highly contested in court. The data had to be bombproof, so we took extra steps in error detection,” she said. “We were meticulous because I knew my population estimate will be the basis for proposed delisting.” She never came under pressure to conduct a loaded analysis, she said.

“That is the benefit of working for an agency that doesn’t have a stake in the management outcome. We have a strict standard for how we conduct our studies. I never received any pressure from anyone to find a result one way or another, and nobody credible has ever questioned the results.”

Despite her retirement, Kendall intends to see through to fruition her most recent grizzly bear population study in the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem, which so far has yielded roughly 10,500 hair samples.

Having overcome the gender barrier, Kendall’s work also met resistance from Sen. John McCain in 2008, when he repeatedly directed his “pork barrel spending” fusillades at the DNA research, arguing that the government was squandering money. “What he didn’t seem to want to consider was that we spent so much money on bear recovery without have any data,” she said.

Looking back on her career and groundbreaking research with humility, Kendall says it has been rewarding and that she has made a valuable contribution to the field.

“I feel lucky that I was in the right place at the right time to help develop these techniques. It’s been fun,” she said.

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