Home Archived April 13, 2016

Northern Divide Grizzly Bear Project 2002-2008


Principal Investigator

Katherine C. Kendall, USGS Glacier Field Station, Glacier National Park, West Glacier, MT 59936-0128 kkendall@usgs.gov

Project Description

Grizzly bear in a bear hair trapThe Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) in northwest Montana is one of the last strongholds of the grizzly bear in the lower 48 states. Of the six established grizzly bear recovery zones, the NCDE is the third largest in area, potentially harboring the greatest number of grizzly bears, and is the only zone contiguous to a strong Canadian population. For these reasons it may have the best prospect of long-term survival for this threatened species. However, little information exists about the bears in this region and as agencies strive to recover the threatened grizzly bear, it is clear that there is a need to assess the grizzly bear population in the NCDE.

Managers and biologists are working to identify population size, trend, survival, and the corridors that link separate populations. Advances in genetic technology allow us to address these parameters through the identification of species, sex, and individuals from DNA extracted from bear hair without ever handling a bear. This project will apply these techniques in conjunction with statistical models to estimate the number of grizzly bears inhabiting the NCDE.  DNA will be analyzed from bear hair collected along survey routes and from systematically positioned hair snag stations. Grizzly bears identified from hair samples will be used in a mark recapture model to estimate the population of bears in the NCDE and will provide an independent calibration of the population index developed from survey routes. This information will be used to address future bear conservation issues.

For more information click here: Project Objectives

Related Materials

Related Projects

  • Greater Glacier Bear DNA Project (1997-2002): project website
  • Use of Remote Camera Systems: Remote video and still cameras were used to: investigate how grizzly bears, black bears, and other wildlife species respond to baited, barbed wire hair traps; bear use of naturally-occurring bear rubs, bear marking behavior, and effects of putting barbed wire on bear rubs to facilitate hair collection; how hair traps may be modified to improve detection probabilities. Use of remote camera systems to investigate efficiency of DNA-based sampling methods


grizzly bear, black bear, DNA finger printing, mark-recapture, wildlife, population, landscape scale, non-invasive sampling, conservation genetics, hair, microsatellites, polymerase chain reaction, Ursus arctos, Ursus americanus, hair snag, sign survey, genetics, Glacier National Park, Blackfoot Nation, Flathead National Forest, Helena National Forest, Kootenai National Forest, Lewis and Clark National Forest, Lolo National Forest, Bob Marshall Wilderness, Mission Mountains, Great Bear Wilderness, Scapegoat Wilderness, Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem

Geographic Distribution

Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, Northwest Montana