Forensic hair analysis comes to bear research . . .
U.S. and Canadian researchers have found they can get a good idea of a grizzly bear’s diet over several months by looking at a single hair. The technique, which measures residues of trace metals, can be a major tool in determining if the threatened animals are getting enough of the right foods to eat.
The technique can also help determine how much mercury bears are ingesting. A study published last year by many of the same researchers found that two out of three grizzlies sampled in coastal British Columbia had mercury levels exceeding a neurochemical effect threshold proposed for polar bears.
“You can use the technology for both applications,” said Marie Noël, lead author of both the mercury study and a more recent study, published in Science of the Total Environment, on how the technique works. “You can see how much mercury they’re getting but also estimate how much salmon they’re eating.”