Knight Inlet Lodge
How much range does a grizzly bear need? It’s one of the many questions biologists don’t have an answer to. But with the help of Knight Inlet Lodge they’re getting closer to an answer, at least for coastal grizzlies.
“The work is really exciting,” says Dean Wyatt, owner of the remote wildlife viewing lodge in Knight Inlet on the mainland coast. “It’s the first time someone’s put a collar on a bear, followed the signal, extrapolated it into a spread sheet and then placed it on a map to get a 3-D image of where the bear has been. Hopefully the information will help us find what the home range of a grizzly looks like.”
This is the newest project in an on-going $100,000 study of the 43 grizzly bears living near the lodge and just one of many studies that the lodge funds every year within its tenure.
Dr. Owen Nevin, at the University of Central Lacashire in England, has led much of the bear research including a landmark study into the carrying capacity of human bear viewing. “We looked at what effect we have viewing them in their day-to-day lives,” Wyatt says. “We were able to determine what the bears would allow for human interaction.” Dr. Nevin’s research found females with cubs preferred to feed while the lodge’s guests were around because the males avoided people. But other than that, the impacts were negligible. “The research became part of our tenure package, our bible of what we do in the area. It’s working spectacularly”
With the carrying capacity known, Wyatt turned to the bear’s major food source – salmon. He’s been pouring money into studying salmon returns to the Glendale River, home of 90 per cent of pink salmon returning to the Broughton Archipelago. “Without the salmon we won’t have bears,” Wyatt says. The lodge is currently funding an on-going $150,000 monitoring and stewardship project for the Glendale River spawning channel using a variety of approaches including state of the art acoustic imaging technology. The technology allows accurate enumeration of migrating salmonids in systems where water clarity does not lend itself to visual observation and where a fence is not feasible. The data from the study is critical in helping to create a sustainable fisheries strategy for the South Central BC Coast region. This research is being conducted in a partnership with Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Wyatt is also keeping a close eye on the bears. Dr. Nevin is leading the collaring study that begun last year. So far seven bears have been collared with plans for three more this spring. “We’re using a tenth of the dosage that the government uses in tranquilizing the bears,” he says. The bears are used to seeing people close by so they aren’t under stress when tranquilizing specialist, Greg Johnson, from Idaho State Fish and Wildlife, shoots them with a dart.”
“You’d never believe it,” Wyatt says. “One minute they’re eating, the next they fall over. Ninety minutes later they stand up, stagger and keep on eating. It’s benign.”
The collars will be on the bears for 18 months, continuously sending data about their travels and habits, providing more information that will help scientists answer their growing list of questions. “The information should do a lot in the future for how we protect bears in the province,” Wyatt says.
PHOTOS © grizzlytours.com