Now hair's some good news
You're helping bears bounce back in a key Y2Y area
Deep in north Idaho’s Selkirk mountains, a tuft of coarse dark brown bear hair blows gently in the wind on a piece of barbed wire.
Nearby, Y2Y’s Cabinet Purcell Mountain Corridor project coordinator Jessie Grossman moves along the forest floor, examining the pieces of barbed wire stretched around four trees to make a square.
On this morning Jessie and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seasonal technician Megan Wright (pictured at right) have been bushwhacking and travelling far off trail to access this remote site known as a corral, the first of the weekend.
The pair are collecting bear hair samples in this band of mountains as part of an ongoing DNA project in a region known as the Selkirk grizzly recovery zone.
Inside the corral, logs are soaked in fermented fish and other strong-smelling ingredients. It’s not immediately noticeable to humans, but for a bear’s super sensitive nose, it’s just right.
The wire is carefully set — low enough for a bear to snag its fur on while crawling under yet high enough to discourage the bear stepping over. The corral is deep in the woods, far from popular recreation areas to prevent conflict with wildlife.
What does bear hair tell us?
Since 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been leading this monitoring program. This summer, Megan’s job is to set up corrals and monitor rub trees.
Both of these sites allow for the collection of grizzly bear fur for DNA analysis. These samples help biologists track bears in the ecosystem, find new bears, and monitor which bears are breeding and producing offspring.
“This area is prime grizzly habitat,” says Jessie. “By capturing passing bears on remote wildlife cameras, and taking hair samples from wire catches and natural tree rub sites, we can observe and track their recovery.”
This monitoring is part of a recovery plan that started in 1993 when the grizzly population was about 36 bears. Thanks to the support of our donors, Y2Y — along with agency partners and other non-profits — works to help protect and connect habitat for grizzlies in the larger Cabinet-Purcell Mountain Corridor.
This project is ongoing in the Cabinet-Yaak and Selkirk recovery zones of northeast Washington, northern Idaho and northwest Montana, even crossing into British Columbia.
Bears bouncing back
The good news? It’s been working. There are now an estimated 70 to 80 grizzlies living in the entire cross-border ecosystem.
In addition to checking natural rub sites — bears often travel many miles to rub a particularly good tree to get that itch just right (see video link to right) — Jessie and Megan are collecting photos from remote cameras that trigger when wildlife visit the corral site.
On this day, the team finds photographic evidence of several moose and black bears. Though there was no evidence of grizzlies on the wildlife cameras, the hair sample is collected to undergo DNA analysis.
Jessie and Megan carefully lift coarse brown hair with a white tip off the wire snag. It looks like grizzly hair.
“This is exciting to find,” Jessie says. “Maybe one day we’ll be regularly collecting hair at this site as bears continue to bounce back into their traditional territory here.”
Roads are bad news for bears
Why keeping bear habitat road-free matters
A report published in July 2018 found motorized access into wilderness areas of western North America is bad for bears, both individuals and entire populations.
Read about the research Grizzly Bears and Roads: The Grisly Truth or the entire report: Resource Roads and Grizzly Bears in British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, now.
Sometimes it's about the little things
Large to small, you're helping to save them all
That’s how you might describe Claire Jarrold, Y2Y’s senior development manager (pictured at right). While she has never actually seen one, she is known for her obsession with pale jumping slugs in the office. She explains why:
While I'm not a scientist, or even really a conservationist beyond my fundraising role with Y2Y, I get my “head space”, or down-time, in nature. Perhaps you do, too!
Having been awed and inspired by larger creatures including bears and wolverines since arriving in Canada from the UK 10 years ago, I'm increasingly fascinated by the little ones. Your support is helping save one of my favorite tiny creatures, the pale jumping slug.
It all started with our habitat restoration project in northern Idaho, where we're partnering with Idaho Fish and Game to restore key wetlands in a chain that stretches from Bonner’s Ferry, ID up to Creston, B.C.
This area’s been drained and fragmented over the years by agriculture, but thanks to supporters like you the Y2Y team is creating new seasonal ponds here. These ponds will support native frogs and toads that only reproduce once a year — deterring invasive bullfrogs that breed year-round.
Bees, slugs and many other creatures will benefit from the native plants and trees the team is bringing back.
Pale jumping slugs (pictured at right) are a species at risk, and not much is known about them — although there are some cool videos of it "jumping". It thrashes from side-to-side, and flips itself over to deter potential predators. Not quite pole-vaulting, but still pretty impressive.
These tiny, glistening creatures are about 2 inches long (55 millimeters) when extended. They may not go on the same giant journeys that originally inspired the Y2Y concept, such as Pluie the wolf’s epic two-year-long trip over 40,000-square-miles (103,000 km2), but their lives and movements are equally enthralling and indicative to us of what nature needs.
Read more: Helping north Idaho keep its cool.
What’s inspired you this summer?
Share your Y2Y adventures with us
Some areas of Yellowstone to Yukon are already seeing an early dusting of snow, but we're not done with summer yet!
We bet you kept busy. Maybe you went hiking, camping, rock climbing or paddling? We'd love to find out. You could even be featured in a future newsletter or on our social channels.
What summer story do you have? Please share your story, video or photo from the Yellowstone to Yukon region with us by emailing [email protected].
Make your shopping count
Build your giving impact in new ways
Looking for additional ways to support Y2Y? Beyond direct donations, there are many other ways to include us in your everyday errands.
We think it’s important to shop locally but when you’re unable to, easily support Y2Y while purchasing items through Amazon. The online retailer’s Smile program means 0.5 percent of your purchase is gifted to us at no extra cost to you.
Currently only available at amazon.com, start your donation by visiting smile.amazon.com before you make your next purchase there.
In Alberta, ATB Financial provides an easy way for Albertans to support the causes they care about through ATB Cares. When you give through the program, the charity of your choice receives 100 percent of your donation with a bonus: ATB matches 15 percent of every dollar donated to an annual limit of $240,000 per organization. Find out more at atbcares.com.
1% for the Planet
By bringing “doers and dollars” together, 1% for the Planet member businesses give at least one percent of their annual sales. Individual members give at least one percent of their annual salary or net worth.
This global initiative supports environmental non-profits, including Y2Y, through direct donations from purchases at partner businesses. With 1,200 businesses in more than 40 countries, you are certain to find a 1% for the Planet retailer near you. Search the directory or look for the 1% for the Planet sticker.
Find more information on these stories:
Photo credits —
Banner: Bear hair caught on a wire snare, Jessie Grossman
Inset photos: Megan Wright checks a wildlife camera in Idaho, Jessie Grossman | A black bear rubs on a tree, BBC | Pale jumping slug, Idaho Fish and Game | Summer hiking, Karsten Heuer