The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team was established in 1973, and is composed of eight agency partners from federal, state, and tribal agencies that work together to monitor the status of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population. Dr. Frank van Manen is the team lead, and Seeker gets a look at what a day in the field is like as he and his team gather data on a grizzly.
"We really get into a pretty methodical approach in terms of gathering our data," said van Manen. "And it's very important that we get as much information as we possibly can on this particular animal, because it may be the only time that we ever catch this particular animal."
Among the data collected includes body measurements, blood pressure, and body weight. The team also ear tags the grizzly for individual identification, and tattoos identification on the lip of the grizzly, should ear tag ever become lost. In addition, PIT tags are given to every bear, similar to how pets are microchipped. It's important to go to extreme lengths to be able to identify the animal properly in order to correctly track all data.
"Besides collecting data on the body condition, we also collect some samples, like hair samples, where we can get information in terms of their genetics," van Manen added. "We can identify each individual bear based on genetics alone. And we can develop family relationships from that information with other bears that we capture."
Since the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team was founded, the population of Yellowstone grizzly bears has seen a robust and healthy increase in numbers. In 2017, the species for this region was removed from the endangered species list as a result of reaching healthy population numbers — something that could not have been achieved without the careful monitoring and tracking of the study team.
"I think that interagency collaboration has been absolutely critical to the success of this team, to the success of the science, and informing good management decisions," said van Manen. "And I think that's the reason that we now have a population that is biologically recovered."