Ak Hunting News: One Bear, Two Bears, Three Bears… Counting Bears You Can Not See
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From an Alaska Wildlife News article by Mike Taras:
Al Keech slung the shotgun over his shoulder as he strolled through the woods towards the grizzly bear lure site. I stayed close, trying to make noise as we approached the blood-and-fish soaked lure. I knew hundreds of these sites had been checked over the summer without any encounters with bears but still, it was a grizzly bear lure site, and it was the first I was checking.
It wasn’t bears we were looking for, but evidence of bears. “We got one,” I said to Keech, peering at the clump of grizzly hair stuck to the hair snare – a strand of barbed wire encircling the lure.
Estimating bear numbers is no easy task. They can’t be counted like moose, which are active all year and are relatively easy to see from an airplane when snow covers the ground.
Bears are almost impossible to count accurately from an airplane in wooded country, as they often spend the daylight hours in thick cover. In the winter, when they would stand out against the snow, they are hidden away in their dens hibernating.
With these challenges Fish and Game biologist Craig Gardner set out to design a bear population estimate in the 40-mile country north of Tok and west of Chicken. This area is part of ongoing Intensive Management efforts to increase moose and caribou numbers and managers wanted more data on the grizzly bear population in the area. Working with a limited budget and limited staff, Gardner’s task was to determine how many bears are living in an area almost 3,000 square miles.
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