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Hikers and Grizzlies

Can we co-exist?

Hikers and Grizzlies

Posted by PNTAStaff on July 27, 2016

“Great trail! Needs more grizzlies” are the only comments on a PNNST thru-hiker June 30, 2015 Montana Three Rivers Ranger District visitor registration form. One of the many pressing concerns for the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail Advisory Council to consider is routing through areas of special interest. One of these areas is the Idaho Panhandle National Forest where the National Scenic Trail goes through both the Cabinet Yaak and Selkirk Recovery Zones. The Forest Service is now conducting research to understand the how human recreational trail activity may impact the Grizzly population.

Bonners Ferry Planning
Brett and Nick listen carefully to Jen while plannning in Bonners Ferry office

Nick Maag recently graduated from the University of Idaho with a degree in Wildlife Resources. He grew up off a gravel road in a small agricultural community in eastern Oregon and has been, “over the years a farmer, construction worker, equipment operator, and parks maintenance worker - before deciding to pursue a higher education.” He goes on to say, “The opportunity to work on a collaborative project between the PNTA and USFS was a dream come true. I get to spend time on the trails getting to know the Selkirk and Purcell Mountains, speak with day-users and thru-hikers about their experiences, and monitor for wildlife activity along the way.”

Forest Service Biologist Brett Lyndaker and Wildlife Technician Jennifer Durbin note that bears like to use trails and rub themselves on trees to leave scent markings. “They really like signposts, too!” As part of a DNA study of the Grizzlies in the recovery area, hair samples are collected from the trees, where short strips of barbed wire have been fastened to tree trunks. Previously, researchers had used odiferous liquids to lure bears to areas strung with barbed wire, requiring more wire and careful transport and application of the stink.

This year the research project is running from June 1st to mid-September. Brett Lyndaker points out “how we are using this first year to better focus our methodology, to know what questions we should be answering in the coming years.” In 2017 there will be more knowledge on how two federally designated priorities – Grizzly bear recovery and the congressional Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail – might co-exist.