New Mexico biologists lure bears to sample DNA

Created: 06/19/2014 5:58 PM
By: Kristen Garcia

A study is underway to determine how the bear population is doing here in New Mexico.  It's a new method that is effective and safe to both the bear and biologists.

An NMSU grad student began this study about three years ago. He's trying to find out if the bear population has been growing or shrinking here. 

The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish is helping out in the effort by setting up bait to lure the bears and get what they need: the bear hair. 

The little balls of hair carry a lot of important information, according to Game and Fish biologist Elise Goldstein. 

"It's that hair follicle right where the hair was attached to the bear that has some DNA on it," Goldstein said. 

She's helped with the study that's happening all over the mountains in New Mexico, including the Sangre de Cristos, Sacramentos, and Sandias.

"We're hoping to be able to get a better handle on how many bears we have in the state. This'll give us an ability to know how many bears we have so we can monitor the population trends," she said. 

The biologists lure the bears into certain areas by baiting them with scents of skunks, cattle, and fish, which bears love. 

Goldstein says that biologists have been using the new tools to gather better data.

The goal is to get the bears to follow that scent and rub against the barb wire, which will snag a piece of their hair for DNA sampling.

"The bear will probably never even know that it's happening. It can't feel anything because of its thick coat," she said.

This is the last year of the study. The results will are expected to be published sometime next year. 

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