Home Archived April 13, 2016

Research Biologist retires after 35+ years of bear research.


Kate KendallResearch Biologist Katherine “Kate” Kendall will retire on May 31st after a long time career dedicated to the preservation and protection of grizzly bears within the Northern Rocky Mountains, specifically the Greater Yellowstone, Northern Continental Divide, and Cabinet-Yaak ecosystems.

Kate began her career in the 1970’s with the National Park Service in Washington D.C., serving as an environmental specialist in the Chief Scientist's office. In 1977, she moved to Bozeman, Montana to join the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team conducting research on the grizzly bear population in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. While working on the Study Team she also attended Montana State University and earned her master’s in Fish and Wildlife Management in 1981. Her research focused on the ecological relationships between grizzly and black bears, red squirrels and whitebark pine - an important food source for bears.

In 1982 Kate moved her career to the vast Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) in northwest Montana where she took a job as a Research Biologist for Glacier National Park. Kendall remained in Glacier and since 1996 has served as a research Biologist at the Glacier Field Station for the USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center. During this time she established the Northern Divide Grizzly Bear Project (NDGBP) and began her work using noninvasive sampling methods to capture population estimates of bears in the NCDE, one of the last strongholds of the grizzly bear in the lower 48 states. The NDGBP completed a 7-year study in 2008 that estimated 765 grizzly bears make their home in the NCDE, which provides a better understanding of the population size, distribution, and genetic health of grizzly bears in this region. The Remote Camera Project was a secondary output of the NDGBP project which used remote video and still cameras that captured numerous wildlife species throughout the NCDE. These video and still shots were used to investigate various facets of animal behavior, as well as help researchers improve study design. Not only has the remote camera footage been invaluable to researchers, it has also piqued the interest of many news media outlets which have featured the videos and the study in new stories, putting the NDGBP in the public eye.

In 2009 at the request of the US Forest Service, Kate initiated a project to investigate the effectiveness of non-invasive sampling methods to monitor grizzly bear population trends in the NCDE. For the past 4 years, her crews sampled hair from multiple visits to 5,600 natural bear rubs throughout the 8 M-acre study area. Information on the species, sex, and individual identity of the bears obtained from genetic analysis of the hair is being used to determine if the number of bears in the population has changed over time.

In 2011 Kate initiated a new research project in Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem (CYE) in northwest Montana and northern Idaho with a goal to use sign surveys and systematic hair snag stations to obtain an estimate of the number of grizzly bears in the CYE. In addition to population size, this research will provide a picture of the how bears are distributed across this landscape and a DNA database for grizzly bears in the CYE to assess genetic diversity and degree of relatedness of the grizzly bear population. Like the earlier NCDE study, the CYE effort will provide the first rigorous estimate of population size and distribution of the grizzly bears that roam this remote wilderness.

Kate Kendall’s thirty-five plus years of dedication to the conservation of bears in North America has yielded sound scientific data to support the complex process of delisting grizzly bears. The legacy of her work in bear population and genetic monitoring will certainly inspire future generations of wildlife biologists, as well as inform existing management decisions pertaining to the future of grizzly bears in the Northern Rocky Mountains.

Thank you, Kate, for almost forty years of exemplary dedication to this field!