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Collecting bear poop may become a thing of the past for Parks Canada

Bear Photo by BGSmith/Shutterstock.com

If you’ve ever dreamed of working in Canada’s national parks, we need to break some bad news: the job traditionally involves the task of collecting samples of bear poop. However, thanks to technology, this part of the job will soon be obsolete.

In the past, Parks Canada employees collected bear droppings and mats of fur in order to test their DNA and monitor where bears had been. But these days, tracking collars and automatic cameras have made the job of tracking of bears a lot less, well, crappy.

The new methods are also cheaper, according to wildlife ecologist Jesse Whittington. Parks Canada considered doing a bear survey using DNA-collection a few years ago, but the costs would have been around $500,000. “[Stool collection is] a great way to monitor populations, but it’s very expensive and labour intensive,” Whittington told the CBC.

Using cameras and collars to track population density is a relatively new practice, though these technologies have been used more in other types of studies. Whittington says the use of new techniques is exciting because they’re “non-invasive and they’re relatively inexpensive,” and they also work well more in remote areas like Banff National Park.

bear collars
Photo by National Parks Service
Bear tracking collars similar to those being used in Canada’s national parks.

Whittington’s study of grizzly population density in the mountain parks has found their numbers are stable—there’s an average of about 13 grizzlies per 1,000 square kilometres.

Jodi Hilty, president of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, told the CBC the stability of the grizzly population is encouraging. “That’s really important to a park like Banff because there are so many visitors—it’s increasing every year—and with the other stressors like climate change in this system, it’s really important that we know what’s going on with species like grizzly bears and many other animals that might be affected by these things.”