Montana Outdoors

October 20, 2011

And sure enough…

Filed under: Animals — Tags: — montucky @ 8:29 pm

This summer I have noticed a new sign at the trail heads of many of the trails that I visit. It appears to be an interesting new research program that does a bear study by performing DNA tests on hair that is collected to gain a variety of information about the bears in the area. This sign was at the start of a trail I hiked on today:

Bear research

About a mile up the trail there was a small amount of barbed wire stapled to a tree right next to the trail and about two feet from the ground:

Bear hair

It’s interesting to know who your hiking companions are!



  1. Oh my, that’s too close for comfort, but then I suppose it’s to be expected. It is their terrain we walk through. I had bear scat in my yard off and on all summer. Never saw them, just the fresh scat every few days. They spend a lot of time under my apple trees. Mine are black bears. Are these black, brown, or grizzlies? That would be double yikes!


    Comment by Teresa Evangeline — October 20, 2011 @ 8:42 pm

    • We have a lot of bears in this area, but oddly enough I’ve encountered only two this summer. Black bears are predominant right here, but we are on the very edge of Grizzly territory and have one visit occasionally. Their range actually starts about 20 miles west of here in the same mountain range, the Cabinets. I have seen their sign a number of times but have not encountered one.


      Comment by montucky — October 20, 2011 @ 9:57 pm

  2. When they did bear DNA studies in Glacier NP, they strung wire around a bait log, which was doused with a foul-smelling mixture of dead fish and I forget what else. The study in your area seems to be an improved version. Would be interesting to know what they find out.


    Comment by Kim — October 20, 2011 @ 9:22 pm

    • I hope they will publish some of the results. My observation has been that they are using the right study areas: the ones that I’ve seen are in prime black bear territory and the ones I saw today all had caught what looked like pretty good samples of hair.


      Comment by montucky — October 20, 2011 @ 9:59 pm

  3. Oh yes!!!


    Comment by Roberta — October 20, 2011 @ 10:07 pm

    • It would be interesting to know the frequency of their visits to the sites to collect the hair. Heck, I’d even volunteer for that job!


      Comment by montucky — October 20, 2011 @ 10:47 pm

  4. Dang big brother is everywhere isn’t he? A bear can’t even live in the woods any more without being “watched”! 😉


    Comment by kcjewel — October 20, 2011 @ 10:47 pm

    • I kind of like this idea though. It will be interesting to know who they are. I hope some of the results will be published and I also hope they will include the specific trails because then I’ll know more about who I hike with!


      Comment by montucky — October 20, 2011 @ 11:15 pm

  5. such a wide array of color there…it could have came from my own head…especially considering the gray =o)


    Comment by Sandy — October 20, 2011 @ 11:23 pm

    • Mine too. The various colors of black bears are fascinating. I like the jet black best, but cinnamon is really pretty too. This one had white on it as well: I’ve seen several that did in that general area.


      Comment by montucky — October 21, 2011 @ 6:58 pm

  6. If I ever saw a bear near a path I was hiking, well I don’t know what I would do, but I would be plenty scared.


    Comment by Preston Surface — October 21, 2011 @ 3:38 am

    • It’s common here, Preston, and those who hike a lot are used to it. Black bears are seldom a problem and wonderful to see.


      Comment by montucky — October 21, 2011 @ 6:59 pm

  7. Very interesting. Are barbed wires still in use there? Here they are allowed to use. It happened, a little bit coincidence with our posts. I showed photos from the memorial of the bear hunter Sipoo who killed a bear with his spear.


    Comment by sartenada — October 21, 2011 @ 6:10 am

    • Yes, barb wire is common here for cattle fences. This was just a bit of it to catch some hair. It was stapled very close to the bark of the trees.


      Comment by montucky — October 21, 2011 @ 7:00 pm

  8. Yikes! Bears! Be careful!


    Comment by Roberta — October 21, 2011 @ 6:24 am

    • There was a story in today’s paper about our bears here. The Grizzly, which was rarely seen in this area has been rapidly expanding its range and now the chances of one being close here have increased. Yes, a little more diligence will be warranted. When I hike in Griz country I carry bear spray as well as my pistol.


      Comment by montucky — October 21, 2011 @ 7:03 pm

  9. I was wondering if they were studying black bears or griizzlies. It sounds like based on your experience they are in black bear territory although they may overlap. When I lived out west I noticed that the black bears generally avoided areas where grizzlies were present.

    DNA can tell a lot about the individual bear, and if done over a long period of time and over a wide area will be able to determine migration of both the bears and their descendants, amongst many other things. The bears will hopefully benefit from these studies. Their future may be held in our hands. Now if we can just keep this land from being developed. Even forever wild tracks are at risk. Just last year one of the Republican candidates wanted to sell all our national parks to private enterprises like Disney. Claimed it was too expensive and not constitutional to own them. His name? Ron Paul.


    Comment by Wild_Bill — October 21, 2011 @ 6:30 am

    • I first thought that the study was just about Black Bears, but there was a story in today’s paper that the Grizzly is expanding its range and will be seen much more often in this area. I will be very interested in seeing the results from the study. I’m on the monthly email list of a wildlife biologist who specializes in Grizzlies and he reports on the activity and travels of the ones that have collars on them and passes on other reports as well.

      Selling our National Parks will never fly. That kind of nonsense is what causes a politician to lose credibility and respect.

      On the good news side though, today the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule which prohibits building roads on nearly 50 million acres of inventoried roadless land in national forests across the United States. It had been under heavy attack by several groups and politicians who are in favor of opening them to development.


      Comment by montucky — October 21, 2011 @ 7:12 pm

  10. It’s always interesting to gather research and see what comes of it. Pepper spray anyone?


    Comment by Homestead Ramblings — October 21, 2011 @ 7:15 am

    • I’m very interested in seeing what will be discovered in this study! I see bears rather frequently, but this will be a pretty thorough study. (I do carry pepper spray as well as a pistol when in Grizzly country. If a situation demands my using either, it will be interesting to see what my hand will instinctively reach for first!)


      Comment by montucky — October 21, 2011 @ 7:15 pm

  11. Very interesting study. I would love to know what kinds of information they will be discovering and how they are using it. It seems to be a good thing–better understanding of the bear population hopefully leads to humans understanding how to live in the same spaces with bears (and other wildlife). Good for all.


    Comment by Bo Mackison — October 21, 2011 @ 11:27 am

    • They will get lots of information, including species and age. Successive hair samples tested for DNA will also show their movement from place to place. I read today that the Grizzly has been found in an area close by here where they have not been in before. The information gathered should tell how prevalent that is.


      Comment by montucky — October 21, 2011 @ 7:18 pm

  12. i love that hair you captured, that is a good way to see a bear, good safe way that is.


    Comment by Tammie — October 21, 2011 @ 12:31 pm

    • Not quite the same though. I cherish every bear encounter. They are just plain fun to watch, and beautiful animals.


      Comment by montucky — October 21, 2011 @ 7:19 pm

  13. Makes me want to set out some bear-hair traps around my stomping grounds. 🙂


    Comment by jomegat — October 21, 2011 @ 6:15 pm

    • There are quite a few logos on that sign: there may be one in your area that will be doing research, I don’t know.


      Comment by montucky — October 21, 2011 @ 7:19 pm

  14. You should definitely talk to some local folks that work for USGS or one of the other agencies and see what you can find out. I love the idea of volunteering to retrieve hair samples. I’m with Wild Bill on this the information they gather could be very useful.


    Comment by anniespickns — October 21, 2011 @ 6:47 pm

    • I have a friend who is a wildlife biologist at the local Ranger Station. I will keep in contact with him as I’m sure he will always be up to date on it.


      Comment by montucky — October 21, 2011 @ 7:21 pm

  15. Very interesting and neat way to collect the bear hair.


    Comment by kateri — October 21, 2011 @ 7:08 pm

    • When I first saw the signs a month or so ago, I wondered what the wire would look like. It’s barely noticeable, and the amount of hair in this one as well as another I saw on the same trail indicates both that bears are using the trails and that the wire does capture hair samples.


      Comment by montucky — October 21, 2011 @ 7:23 pm

  16. Interesting, and a bit scary!


    Comment by sandy — October 22, 2011 @ 8:51 am

    • I will find this fascinating as the results become known. I’ve known for many years that bears commonly use these trails and which ones they use: they leave many signs. There is a tree along this trail, about 3 miles below where the photo was taken that has been used for many years as a marker by bears. They leave their scratch marks on it as a message to other bears, most likely to show how big they are. Here is a link to an old post of mine that shows some photos.


      Comment by montucky — October 22, 2011 @ 10:55 am

  17. Oh, that is a cool shot of the snagged hair. Yikers! Well, I remember being around the bear and moose along with other wildlife when a kid camping in Colorado. I just loved watching the bears. However, I haven’t hiked in remote places where the bears roam. Being informed and respectful about the wildlife is a must. I wonder what it would be like to be a bear researcher.


    Comment by Anna — October 22, 2011 @ 9:02 am

    • What you said about being informed and respectful is so true and so important. Those are actually the things that keep both humans and bears out of trouble if they are followed. I would think much of the research would be fascinating, in fact I’m sure I’d enjoy it, or at least the field work part.


      Comment by montucky — October 22, 2011 @ 10:57 am

  18. Wow, they picked the right place for the project, I guess. That’s totally interesting. That would be a very fun volunteer project for you, I would think. I had to laugh at the logos for all the agencies involved in the project. Can’t have too many government agencies.


    Comment by Candace — October 22, 2011 @ 1:18 pm

    • Yes, there seems to be a whole bunch of agencies participating. I hope that means there will be good support for the project.


      Comment by montucky — October 22, 2011 @ 9:03 pm

  19. Great Stuff, Thanks, look forward to visiting as often as we can


    Comment by tobyzwebsite — October 22, 2011 @ 3:48 pm

  20. Hmmmm…kind of makes you wonder…doesn’t it?


    Comment by Marcie — October 23, 2011 @ 10:46 am

    • I hope it will give us more information about the bears. I know this area quite well and know where there are more bears and where they are not as prevalent. It will be interesting to learn, if we can, what their movements are from area to area. Also to lear the frequency of Grizzly visits into areas where they don’t nrmally stay.


      Comment by montucky — October 23, 2011 @ 7:41 pm

  21. Definitely interesting… & would be scary, to me! =0

    Beee careful & safe out there – but seriously, who could stop? You’d have to give up all the gorgeous, breathtaking scenery… too beautiful to quit! =)


    Comment by Tricia — October 23, 2011 @ 11:39 am

    • Here we have lived with black bears all of our lives. They are as much a part of these forests as the trees are. The more we understand of them, the better for them and us both. The newer issue is the Grizzly, who “doesn’t always play well with the other children”. The jury is still out on them.


      Comment by montucky — October 23, 2011 @ 7:45 pm

      • I can understand that… They say we have bears in Missouri, but I’ve never seen one & I used to hunt a lot, so I’ve been in the woods for many many hours! =)


        Comment by Tricia — October 25, 2011 @ 1:12 pm

        • They seem to do the unexpected. I do not hunt bears but some summers I see many of them and others, like this year, only a few. I’ve only seen two this year, but also I haven’t been out much in the prime times of dawn and dusk this year. Earlier in the spring I saw lots of dropping in several locations though.


          Comment by montucky — October 25, 2011 @ 8:36 pm

  22. how interesting!


    Comment by silken — October 23, 2011 @ 7:40 pm

    • Yes, I think it’s really cool! When I first saw the sign I wasn’t all that impressed, but when I saw their effectiveness in gathering hair I became very interested. I’ve seen bears several times on that same trail as well as other sign and so I knew that they used it. That particular trail is an old one, now abandoned by the Forest Service because in several places it crossed Plumb Creek Timber land and they destroyed those parts by their slovenly logging practices. With the help of a friend who found for me a Forest Service map from 1956, I have been able to retrace and hike the trail as it follows a divide from Baldy Mountain to Big Hole Peak (about 15 miles) and I theorize that it is a major route for bears as well as other large animals to travel back and forth and also into the areas surrounding those mountains.


      Comment by montucky — October 23, 2011 @ 7:51 pm

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