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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, June 18, 2015

We know that hybridization between Polar Bears and northern wandering Grizzlies is happening with frequency as the planet warms.........In modern times, Griz had never ventured into Northern Manitoba ........They are now being seen with more regularity and researchers are at work documenting the how, what, where and why of how the two species will ultimately interact.............

The 'early winners in the climate change lottery'

For decades, the story of grizzlies in North America has been one of decline but this might be a turn around for the species, Clark said, calling them the possible "early winners in the climate change lottery." 
Grizzly bear Wapusk National Park
When Doug Clark was a park warden in Wapusk National Park in the 1990s, he was the second person to report seeing a grizzly bear in Manitoba. (Doug Clark/University of Saskatchewan)
Working as a park warden in Wapusk in 1998, he filed the second observation of a living grizzly in northern Manitoba.
"They simply had never scientifically been documented [southeast of Churchill] at all," Clark said, anecdotally, the numbers are growing but little is known for sure. 
It is difficult to differentiate between grizzlies but exactly one year apart in exactly the same place, a grizzly showed up in Clark's photos and he is making the assumption that it is the same bear in both instances.
"That really makes me think that it might be denning nearby. That's pure speculation but it's speculation informed by knowing that grizzly bears are able to move enormous distances and a mature bear like that doesn't do a whole lot by chance," he said. 
"These two photos with that synchrony between them certainly gives us some really interesting things to chew on and think about.... It's well past the point where it can be dismissed as just one bear wandering through."

Climate change and bear habitat

Aside from finding grizzlies in the area capturing many photos of curious bears' tonsils, these cameras allow Clark to analyze the original subjects of the research, polar bears. The pictures allow him to look at the mammals' body condition, their numbers and when they are appearing compared with the years prior. 
polar bear wapusk national park
Doug Clark said he can't believe the cameras have lasted as long as they have with the number of curious bears that decide to chew on them. (Doug Clark/University of Saskatchewan)
"[Body condition is] a very important measure because with concern about polar bears losing access to seal hunting habitat due to climate warming and loss of sea ice, being able to monitor body condition is increasingly important," he told CBC. 
The data from this spring is of the most interest to Clark because from 2011 to 2014 Hudson Bay's ice broke up in relatively consistent time periods. In spring 2015, there was a significantly earlier ice melt which will change the bears' behaviours, Clark is interested to see how. 

Wapusk National Park 
Doug clark camera WApusk National Park
Doug Clark secures one of their wildlife cameras to a fence post at a research base in Wapusk National Park. (Doug Clark/University of Saskatchewan)

Wapusk National Park is the only place where you can study human-bear interactions safely, thanks to the fenced research camps set up in the park, Clark said. He can only recall one occasion in the decades he's spent there where a bear was killed in the park. 
The location of the park is also key, Clark said, because it is nestled at the edge of the forest and tundra ecosystems, on the coast of Hudson Bay. 
wapusk national park
Wapusk National Park is located in northeastern Manitoba. (Google Maps)
"Ecologically things are changing very very rapidly and grizzlies moving in are just one of the more visible signs of it," Clark said. 
The data collected this spring also showed robins in the area for the first time since they began their research.
"Being able to observe changes right at the edges of two habitats, where things are going to start to move, they're going to be the most apparent and the most visible and probably the most dramatic. So it's a wonderful place to ask questions about change too."

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