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

e partnered with the Museum and The Nature Conservancy to implement a grizzly bear survey project with a unique dimension: from the outset, the study was designed to uphold the Heiltsuk Nation's Gvi'ilas, or customary law, a set of guiding principles that frame a worldview focused on core values.

"What appealed to us was the opportunity to root science in strong cultural stewardship frameworks," said Qqs' William Housty. "We articulate specific Heiltsuk laws and customs related to respect and reciprocity and match them with scientific tools and knowledge to put those principles in action."

During the survey, grizzly bear hair was collected as the animals walked by scented wire snares set up in the area during salmon-spawning season. As part of the non-invasive aspect of the work, the "baits" did not provide rewards to the bears visiting the snares.

At the same time, the team calculated the accessibility of salmon to bears with an index based on the number of salmon that return to the Koeye each year; water flow; and water visibility. Over the three-year survey, they found a decreasing population of bears in the Koeye, likely tied to declining salmon accessibility.

"This study shows that protected areas are not enough. We knew that bears are wide-ranging, but this study shows how vulnerable they are to a variety of threats," said Richard Jeo, a staff scientist for The Nature Conservancy. "Scientific insight can help guide management but the fate of these bears and the rainforest where they live is still largely in the hands of a few First Nations."

"We want to practice land and resource management with strong information empowering our decision makers," Housty said. "Whether it's regulating activities like forestry and tourism or indigenous-led advocacy to end trophy hunting for bears, ensuring that we ourselves are leading the best available science is a critical part of asserting our sovereignty and stewardship respon
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Contact: Kendra Snyder
ksnyder@amnh.org
212-496-3419
American Museum of Natural History
Source:Eurekalert  

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