In this kickoff presentation for the art/science collaborative, John Morton will talk about the process and findings of a 2010 brown bear population estimate. This study provides a baseline for understanding the brown bear population of the Kenai Peninsula and is a tool to guide bear management.
The Kenai Peninsula is a heavily forested and large landscape with many salmon streams. So how do you estimate the number of brown bears on the peninsula when it hasn’t been done before because conventional aerial survey methods just don’t work? We used cow-blood and fish-oil lure to attract bears to barbed wire stations deployed in 145 9-km × 9-km cells systematically distributed across 2.5 million acres of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and Chugach National Forest. Two helicopters and field crews operating out of Soldotna and Moose Pass to retrieve bear hair over 31 consecutive days in 2010. After extracting DNA to identify individual bears, we applied mark-recapture models to derive a density of 42 bears/250K acres on the study area, and an extrapolated estimate of 469‒719 brown bears peninsula wide.
Dr. John Morton has been the Supervisory Biologist at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge since 2002. He has worked as a wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for almost 3 decades on the East Coast, the Mariana Islands, California, Wisconsin and elsewhere in Alaska. He has BS, MS and PhD degrees in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Virginia Tech.