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Research on mobility patterns of black bears could help wildlife, motorists

By Kevin Maki, KECI Reporter, kmaki@keci.com
Published On: Apr 25 2013 09:15:06 AM MDT
Updated On: Apr 25 2013 02:41:31 PM MDT
MISSOULA, Mont. -

State and federal highway departments are interested in the mobility patterns of radio collared black bears off interstate 90 near Lookout Pass.

The bears habits provide information on where to locate possible wildlife passageways.

For the past two years, wildlife biologists have been monitoring 15 bears.

They want to know when, and how often, the bears cross I-90.

Grizzly bear recovery coordinator Chris Servheen shows on the computer the movements of black bears off I-90, not far from St. Regis.

Each color on the computer is a radio-collared black bear moving. Wildlife biologists can monitor the bears' mobility habits every hour.

Of the 15 monitored bears, four have crossed I-90.

"That means the majority of the bears did not cross the highway," said Servheen. "And they were all captured adjacent to the highway is certainly a blocking point for bears and many other species."

The computer also shows a black bear represented in orange, has crossed I-90, but not frequently.

Servheen said male adolescent bears are more prone to take a chance against traffic and noise.

Females, he said, are more cautious.

"And so," said Servheen, "because they don't like to move, their offspring are bounded by the highways as well."

Servheen said in the long run, bears and all wildlife need space and freedom of movement to keep the gene pool healthy. They need unblocked corridors to reach seasonal range ground.

There are wildlife passageways on Highway 93 north, near Evaro. One is an overhead passageway. There are also underground corridors.

Serveheen said animals, including grizzly bears have used underground culverts.

He said the research is as important to humans because keeping animals off the highways is a public safety issue.

The information from the bear study, said the bear scientist, will be used to help animals and motorists on all large highways in the Northern Rockies, both in Montana and Idaho.