Just the Bear Necessities

The Biggest Capture Yet!

The final week of the internship lead to the capture of our largest bear! 

Meet UC008 - adult male!

He weighed in at 255 pounds! 

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It was quite warm that day and so we were constantly wetting him down with water. 

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His feet were gigantic! 

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He was so beautiful and awe inspiring! 

Another Recapture!

We had the pleasure of recapturing UC003! 

This recapture gave us the opportunity to change the VHF collar to a GPS collar as we found out that she was much bigger than we originally thought. 

There Are More Than Just Bears Out There

I have been collecting quite a bit of non-target hair samples at some of my hair snare sites. I really hope as monitoring continues I can get some bear hair! I just have to keep telling myself, “No data is still data”.

Even though I have yet to come across any bear signs at my sites, I have happened upon many other wildlife species such as:

Butterfliesimage

Snakes

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Frogs

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Raccoons

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and deer!

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In fact, at one of my hair snare sites as Allie (one of the other interns) and I were walking in, we startled a fawn who was hiding in the over grown brush! The two of us just about jumped out of our skin! 

Way to Go Weekend Crew!

Week six saw no captures for the Weekday Crew but the Weekend crew had much better luck.

In one day they caught three bears! The exciting part was that two of them were at the same site, a male and female! The downside is that the male managed to break free about an hour before trap tending began. We know this because we caught it all on the trail camera we had set up at the site. 

The male is the one trying to climb the tree. The female can’t be seen very well in this photo but she is hiding in the bottom left corner behind some of the trees. You can just barely make out a dark shape. 

The female that was captured (UC007) was an adult and big enough that we fitted her with a GPS collar (our first deployment! YAY!).

The third bear they caught was none other than UC005 (again!). 

Bears are highly intelligent and adult females are actually tough to capture multiple times. Trappers often have to change aspects of their sets in order to catch the same female again. However, young adult males, like UC005, are often trap happy as they are more interested in things like food, smells and females than they are with their surroundings.

Just Another Week in the Life of an Intern

Week five started out like any other. 

We continued our daily duties. Sometimes that consisted of resetting a trap that was tripped or dug up (porcupines really liked to do this). 

I also continued monitoring hair snare sites. This week I approached them in a slightly different manner however. As some of my hair snares were constructed at already established prebait sites, I began checking those ten prebaits on my own. Thus I dubbed them my Western Line and my paired sites became my Eastern Line. To break up the amount of snares I was checking in a day I also decided to check my Western Line on Thursdays and my Eastern Line on Fridays. 

An issue came to light this week regarding one of our trap sites. We had a landowner complain that we were not on the correct property. As we had not intended for that to happen we sincerely and very professionally apologized and quickly pulled all the traps from that site. 

Last but not least we had the pleasure of recapturing UC005!

I absolutely love his feet. They were so big!!

It was a long week with minimal captures but we all kept moving along establishing more prebait sites, catching up on paperwork and completing other miscellaneous tasks. 

So Much Excitement in One Week

Week four proved to be quite fun!

We continued our daily duties.

And we caught another bear!

UC004 - yearling female.

She was beautiful! I love when she spotted the camera. Look at those ears! 

She was so small weighing approximately 64 pounds!

As she was female we once again got to deploy another radio collar! YAY! Like I said she was a yearling and still growing, so we fitted her with a VHF collar. 

Here my supervisor Lisa was showing another intern the proper method of inserting an ear tag. 

Surprise!! We actually caught TWO bears this week!!

Introducing UC005 - adult male. Look at how big he was in comparison! He weighed approximately 130 pounds! 

And after the immobilization process was complete he was out (sleeping) for a good while and snoring the entire time! 

Check out those teeth!

He was such a beautiful boy and we got some really fantastic biological data from him. 

I also began monitoring my hair snares this week - but that’s definitely not as exciting as handling. ;)

A Week Without a Capture

Although during week three we didn’t have a single bear capture, we didn’t let that stop us!

We continued our daily duties.

We worked on developing more pre bait sites.

We decided  to create a collaborative internship blog and assigned days/topics to each intern. 

I also successfully created data collection sheets for my hair snare project (weekly and site data)

and another intern helped me create an Access database to input my collected data. 

First Capture!

UC003 - adult female!

It was very muddy that day as it had been raining non stop for a week! Her temperature was perfect however, as the mud cooled her down on the hot day that it was! 

We got to work right away on gathering the biological data we needed. 

And since she was a female we got to put a radio collar on her! The mud made her look really small and we didn’t have enough time to weigh her so we put a VHF collar on her to be safe (smaller and don’t weigh as much as the GPS collars). 

We didn’t get to gather all the biological data we wanted from her because she started to wake up earlier than we predicted. So we quickly left the area and let her go on her merry way. 

Constructing the Hair Snares

For the second week of the study, while other interns focused on the trapline and prebaits, I began my individual internship project.

Sample size = 30 total snares (10 corral, 10 barbed wire wraps and 10 tack strips)

Western Line (Albion, Unity, Unity Twnshp)
Prebait sites = 5 barbed wire wraps and 5 tack strips

Eastern Line (Unity, Troy, Burnham, Dixmont, Newburgh)
Paired sites = 10 corrals, 5 barbed wire wraps and 5 tack strips

All snares were constructed following my developed protocol:image

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While it took the full week to construct all thirty hair snares, with the help from other interns I managed to get them all out in the field.

The hard part is over….at least until it’s time to take them down. 

Hair Snares

As an intern, along with the primary daily duties, I am required to develop an individual project. I have decided to create and implement a protocol for a Capture-Mark-Recapture technique called a hair snare.

So what exactly is a hair snare?

A hair snare is a non-invasive technique that snags hair from the target (and often non-target) animal. Contrary to how a snare typically works, the animal is not actually caught in the snare; just its hair. Biologists can use DNA from the hair to determine what animal was visiting the site.

Although hair snares can be constructed in a variety of different ways, the method most popular is called a corral. A corral is typically made of a single strand of barbed wire wrapped around and attached to approximately 3-5 trees. The strand of barbed wire is meticulously measured to sit 20 inches from the ground. This height permits the target species to easily pass under or over the wire but still allows the hair to become snagged.

A lure (dependent on the species you are studying) is used at each site in order to attract the target species to the snare. Bobcats have keen eyesight; therefore, the use of aluminum pie pans, as an attractant, is common. However, black bears have a very good sense of smell; thus a strong smelling scent is often used as an attractant. This can be anything from sweet smelling anise to glandular scents from a skunk or beaver.

My efforts will be focused on three different hair snare designs; the standard corral and two different kinds of “rubs” (another design of hair snare that, with the help of a lure, stimulates a rubbing response from the target animal). I will also be using two different attractants, skunk essence and beaver castor. My goal with this project is to determine which hair snare design is most effective in determining presence/absence of black bears in areas where they have been sighted. 

Currently the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife does not possess a protocol for the use of hair snares. Thus it is exciting to state that, if successful, my protocol has the potential to be utilized by Maine biologists for future statewide research.