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Study of bear hair will reveal genetic diversity of Yellowstone's grizzlies
Date:12/18/2007

he bears died of natural causes or were killed by humans. Other bears were temporarily unconscious while scientists fit them with radio collars or moved them to another location after they'd gotten into trouble. Some bears left hair behind while crawling underneath barbed wire.

"The vast majority of the time, it is routine," Mark Haroldson said of the collection process. Haroldson is a supervisory wildlife biologist with the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team. He has collected bear hair since the late 1980s.

Schwartz said researchers in Idaho can tell him if the hair came from one bear or several. They can tell him the bear's gender and whether the hair came from a bear at all. To answer the tougher questions, Schwartz turns to the Wildlife Genetics International, which routinely analyzes hair from grizzlies, black bears, wolverines and other wildlife in Canada and the United States. The Canadian lab examined the grizzly hair from the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem. It also analyzes hair collected by MSU graduate students in Yosemite National Park in California and Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada.

Bear hair is tricky because the amount of DNA it contains is so small, said Steven Kalinowski, the students' adviser and a conservation geneticist in MSU's ecology department. Jennifer Weldon, manager of the Canadian lab, said dirty hair can challenge some researchers. So can hair that came from a dead animal and spent so much time in the elements that the DNA degraded.

Schwartz said shafts of the Yellowstone hair will eventually return to MSU so he can conduct other tests and have samples available when new study techniques are developed.


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Contact: Evelyn Boswell
evelynb@montana.edu
406-994-5135
Montana State University  
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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