Tag Archives: WIldlife Conservation Society

‘Detection dogs’ used to study habitat suitability for bears

Camas the detection dog

Sometimes science is a bit… quirky. This is also a pretty interesting read . . .

A recently released study from WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) details a new method using “detection dogs,” genetic analysis, and scientific models to assess habitat suitability for bears in an area linking the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) to the northern U.S. Rockies.

The method, according to the authors, offers an effective, non-invasive approach to the collection of data that could play a vital role in the further recovery of grizzly bears during the coming decades.

“The use of detection dogs allowed us to quantify and map key areas of habitat for black bears in the Centennial Mountains located along the Idaho-Montana border west of Yellowstone National Park,” said Jon Beckmann, WCS Scientist and lead author of the study. “Black bears are a proxy species useful for predicting likely grizzly bear habitat. With recovery, a larger grizzly bear population needs room to roam and to reconnect with other populations. The Centennial Mountains region of the U.S. northern Rockies can provide room and safe linkages— critical to connecting the bear population in the GYE area to others further north and west”.

Read more . . .

Report maps out plan for long-term species conservation in Flathead National Forest

Dr. John Weaver of the Wildlife Conservation Society, long an advocate for targeted landscape preservation to boost species survival, has issued a new report, specifically addressing the area encompassed by the Flathead National Forest.

Here’s the press release. We also offer a link to the full report . . .

BOZEMAN (June 23, 2014) A new report from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) calls for completing the legacy of Wilderness lands on the Flathead National Forest in Montana. The report identifies important, secure habitats and landscape connections for five species—bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout, grizzly bears, wolverines, and mountain goats. These iconic species are vulnerable to loss of secure habitat from industrial land uses and/or climate change.

Located in northwest Montana adjacent to Glacier National Park, the 2.4 million-acre Flathead Forest is a strategic part of the stunning and ecologically diverse Crown of the Continent Ecosystem. From the 1930’s to the present, generations of citizens and government leaders have worked to protect this special area through designations of wilderness, wild and scenic rivers, and protection of critical wildlife habitat.

In his report, “Conservation Legacy on a Flagship Forest: Wildlife and Wild Lands on the Flathead National Forest, Montana,” WCS Senior Scientist Dr. John Weaver notes that these protections may not be enough in the face of looming challenges such as climate change.

For example, warmer winters will reduce mountain snow cover and suitable habitat for the rare wolverine – a species highly adapted to persistent snow pack. Reduced stream flow and warmer stream temperatures will diminish habitat for native westslope cutthroat trout and bull trout that are well adapted to cold waters – while favoring introduced rainbow trout and brook trout.

Weaver found that the Flathead is a stronghold for these fish and wildlife species that have been vanquished in much of their range further south. His analysis shows that 90 percent of the Flathead has a “very high” or “high” conservation value for at least one of the five focal species.

In his recommendations, Weaver employs a “smart strategy for resiliency” that protects and connects large landscapes that have high topographic and ecological diversity. Such a strategy will provide a range of options for animal movements as conditions change. Importantly, remaining roadless areas account for nearly 25 percent of the best habitats for these species. In particular, these higher-elevation areas will provide key options for such vulnerable species in a warmer future.

In total, Weaver recommends 404,208 acres of roadless area on the Flathead Forest for Congressional designation as National Wilderness, and another 130,705 areas be conserved in roadless condition as legislated “Backcountry Conservation.” Vital places with particular concentration of present and future habitat include the Whitefish Range adjacent to Glacier National Park and the Swan Range east of Flathead Lake.

“This report will help inform discussions and decisions about future management on the Flathead National Forest,” said Weaver. “These spectacular landscapes provide some of the best remaining strongholds for vulnerable fish and wildlife and headwater sources of clean water. These roadless refugia offer a rare opportunity to complete the legacy of protecting wildlife and wildlands on this crown jewel of the National Forest system for people today and generations yet to come.”


Full report: Conservation Legacy on a Flagship Forest: Wildlife and Wildlands on the Flathead National Forest, Montana (PDF format, 8.9MB).

Wildlife Conservation Society publishes roadless lands assessment for Montana’s Crown of the Continent region

Dave Hadden of Headwaters Montana reports that Dr. John Weaver, senior scientist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, released a significant report covering the wildlands in the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem in Montana. Here’s the meat of the Headwaters Montana announcement . . .

Dr. John Weaver recently published his newest Wildlife Conservation Society monograph titled, Conservation Value of Roadless Areas for Vulnerable Fish and Wildlife Species in the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem, Montana (PDF, 24.8MB).  This work goes a significant distance towards actually measuring the benefits of protecting roadless lands for the long-term survival of fish and wildlife.

The report attempts to answer the question: “What is the conservation value of these roadless areas for vulnerable fish and wildlife that are important to Montanans and others?”

The report undertakes a mapped (or spatial) analysis of two fish (bull and westslope cutthroat trout) and four mammals (grizzly, wolverine, mountain goat, and bighorn sheep) species for the entire Crown of the Continent ecosystem.

Dr. Weaver lists the key threats to these vulnerable species as “habitat loss and fragmentation, invasive species, and climate warming.”

The science of conservation has evolved greatly over the years.  Species conservation now emphasizes large landscapes rather than site-specific assessment.  Species need to be able to move and adjust to changes; they need “resiliency”.

Dr. Weaver uses his mapping process to score roadless lands as “Moderately Important”, “Important”, or “Very Important” to conservation of the selected species.  He then recommends specific designations for the further protection of roadless land habitat as “Wilderness”, “Backcountry”, or “Wildland Restoration”.

The entire working paper is available for download in PDF format. Those of you who don’t want to wade through the whole thing can find the section on the North Fork Flathead River Basin and Ten Lakes Area on pages 116-129.

For the official announcement of the report’s release and some additional background see “Where Will Grizzly Bears Roam?” on the Wildlife Conservation Society’s website.