Crystal Schick/Yukon News A grizzly bear struts along the South Klondike on Sept. 23.

Volunteers needed for grizzly bear research in southeast B.C.

South Rockies Grizzly Bear Project tracks grizzly bear populations in southeastern British Columbia

  • Jun. 13, 2019 12:00 a.m.

Elk Valley residents can explore the outdoors for a good cause by taking part in grizzly bear research.

The South Rockies Grizzly Bear Project (SRGBP) is a B.C. government-led study that aims to quantify and understand the population dynamics of grizzly bears in southeastern British Columbia.

About 50 volunteers took part in the project last year, collecting more than 2500 bear hair samples from rub trees, which are wrapped with barbed wire.

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These have been sent to a genetics lab in Nelson and, once analyzed, will give scientists a DNA fingerprint for each bear, allowing them to track populations, and identify population-limiting factors.

This year, SRGBP Project Coordinator Emma van Tussenbroek hopes to recruit even more volunteers.

“The South Rockies Grizzly Bear Project is a great project for the community to be involved with as volunteer efforts are helping contribute to grizzly bear research in the Elk Valley,” she said.

“This project allows for exploring different trails in the area, is family friendly and can be done while hiking, biking, horse riding or riding ATVs.”

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van Tussenbroek said volunteers can commit as little or as much time as they would like to the project, which offers plenty of flexibility.

“We have some volunteers who check the same trails every month from June to October and some volunteers who offer to check trees whenever they can. We are happy with any help we can get,” she said.

“This project has also created many new friendships among the volunteers as we usually get together in the spring and the fall.”

There are currently about 285 rub trees in the study area, which covers 11,737 square kilometres from the Flathead Valley to Elk Lakes.

van Tussenbroek said each year, a number of trees are lost to natural events and industry. Others are deliberatively removed from routes if they are too close together or no longer popular among bears.

Last year, SRGBP worked cooperatively with Teck Coal to install rub trees on Teck property for company employees to check each month.

“We have historically had sampling gaps in and around the mine properties, but these recent efforts should help us to address some of these sampling gaps,” said van Tussenbroek.

On May 27, SRGBP hosted an information evening at The Arts Station in Fernie, which was attended by about 40 people.

van Tussenbroek will be providing training and support to any new volunteers, as well as additional training to any current volunteers that are interested.

To sign up, email southrockiesgrizz@gmail.com or call Emma van Tussenbroek at 250-531-1102.