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Study led by indigenous people uncovers grizzly bear 'highway'
Date:7/17/2014

A novel, First Nations-led research collaboration has revealed a previously undocumented grizzly bear aggregation in coastal British Columbia, one of the most southerly aggregations of salmon-feeding grizzlies in North America. Using non-invasive DNA analysis, the authors describe a grizzly bear "highway," identifying nearly 60 individual bears, many who travelled hundreds of miles from surrounding areas to feed on autumn-spawning salmon in the Koeye River. The research was guided by the customary law and cultural practices of the Heiltsuk First Nation and recently published in the journal Ecology and Society.

Conducted over three years, the study also provides potential early evidence of a declining bear population in the area and links this to the decreasing availability of salmon. The project demonstrates a model for resource management by indigenous people, in which research is embedded within a socially and culturally appropriate framework.

"What's really novel here is the set of relationships, and deep cultural histories, that guided applied conservation science," said Chris Filardi, director of Pacific programs at the American Museum of Natural History's Center for Biodiversity and Conservation and an author on the paper. "In this collaborative setting, results are directly relevant to tribal leadership impacting conservation in ways that elude most scientific studies."

The study was centered in the Koeye River Conservancy, one of numerous protected areas designated by the Heiltsuk First Nation in the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia in 2009. The Heiltsuk people settled in this area more than 9,000 years ago and are now reasserting their rights as guardians of the Koeye River. To realize this renewal, they established the Qqs (Eyes) Projects Society, a Heiltsuk-driven nonprofit that builds capacity for research, monitoring, and tribal governance of high-value stewardship areas. In 2006, the Heiltsuk peopl
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Contact: Kendra Snyder
ksnyder@amnh.org
212-496-3419
American Museum of Natural History
Source:Eurekalert  

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