Brown bear conservation and research program in a model area in Romania

In 2006, Milvus Group has started the “Brown bear conservation and research program in a model area in Romania”. This small-scale, long-term, in-situ initiative responds to the three main threats to brown bears. We work towards: 1) Improving the social acceptance of the species; 2) Improving scientific knowledge about the species – conservation oriented research; and 3) Securing a suitable habitat for the bears. Under Objective 1, we strive to improve the social acceptance of brown bears in the project areas (and not only), mainly through a systematic mass-media campaign. Under Objective 2, we gather telemetry data from bears we fit with GPS-GSM collars, conduct a study on bear parasites, cooperate on a study on bear poaching in Romania, respectively work on publishing some of our results through peer-reviewed papers. Under Objective 3, we gather scientific data to pave the way for mitigation measures (crossing structures) for large carnivores on one of Romania’s planned highways in the Eastern Carpathians, in order to increase the future highway’s permeability for these species (and not only). Additionally, each year we save a number of orphaned bear cubs and also rescue bears from snares set by poachers.
Some of our achievements so far include: 6 new protected areas (Natura 2000 sites) designated for brown bears (and other species & habitats of EU importance); 18 orphaned bear cubs saved; 11 bears saved from poachers’ snares; 115 bear dens and 8 open nests located and measured; 211 scats and 43 harvested bears examined for endoparasites; genetic samples collected from more, than 150 individuals; 3 habituated bears successfully relocated; 25 bears fitted with GPS-GSM collars; complex questionnaire survey among 865 rural residents, in 4 study areas, on the public perceptions of large carnivores; and more.

The Application of new and novel non-invasive techniques to monitor bears (Ursids)

Since 1998, a primary research aim of the fRI Grizzly Bear Program has been to advance and apply non-invasive sampling techniques for population and health monitoring of a Threatened population of grizzly bears in Alberta, Canada. To advance this process, we formed many valuable collaborations between industry, government, and academic institutions. Through combined efforts, our program has contributed to the development of field and laboratory techniques that identify species, sex, and individual animals from hair and scat samples, as well as the statistical techniques to reliably estimate population abundance from marked/detected individuals.
However, in conservation biology, there is a growing need for the development of novel approaches to rapidly and reliably predict adverse effects of human-caused environmental change on individual wild animal health before population performance and abundance is negatively impacted. In response to this need, our program has worked collaboratively to validate hair cortisol concentration as a bio-marker of long-term stress in grizzly bears. Our most recent work has developed new techniques using hair samples collected from non-invasive genetic sampling to reveal the reproductive state of individual grizzly bears (Cattet et al. 2017), another important indicator of the health of wildlife populations. Additionally these new techniques to monitor reproductive hormone profiles within hair allow the identification of age class (mature/immature). Overall, long-term and large-scale monitoring of the physiological state of individuals provides a more comprehensive approach to support management and conservation of threatened and endangered wildlife populations..
At this time we want to use these newly developed techniques to support provincial grizzly bear recovery efforts in Alberta, and to also utilize these same techniques with samples collected from brown bears in Mongolia (Gobi Desert) where there this species is critically endangered having fewer than 25 bears remaining.