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Cascades carnivore project interim report released

Nov 20, 2012

Monitoring volunteers with Conservation NW gain data for the story of carnivores including black bears in the I-90 wildlife corridor.

Cascades carnivore project interim report released

Hair sample from the field. Credit: Cascades Carnivore Connectivity Project

The Cascades Carnivore Connectivity Project, launched in 2008 by the Western Transportation Institute and the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, is a multiple partner effort to discern the barrier effects of highways and associated development on movement of carnivores in the North Cascades - and ultimately reduce those effects. Hair samples and other non-invasive data from wildlife allow project leads to evaluate the effects of I-90, Route 2, and Highway 20 on carnivore populations across the region.

Conservation Northwest has been a partner in this effort since its launch, a unique opportunity to bring our volunteer capacity to this exciting project. In the winter of 2011-2012, we recruited and managed a pool of volunteers from our Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project. Under supervision of Western Transportation Institute biologists, volunteer teams installed and maintained stations for finding pine martens in the I-90 corridor.

“Conservation Northwest volunteers were invaluable to our efforts last winter, as they enabled us to cover a lot more ground for our marten surveys in the I-90 region," said Paula MacKay, research associate with Western Transportation Institute. "The volunteers were tireless in their efforts to get out into the mountains, plus they were really fun to work with!”

Last week, the project posted a  2012 Interim Report, which includes a summary of the effort to date for Cascades predators and summarizes genetic results from 2011 and preliminary results from 2008 to date. What they found? For black bears, over the course of four field seasons the project deployed 530 corrals throughout the North Cascades. That fetched a total of 2,866 hair samples, documenting 561 individual bears (268 males, 292 females, 1 sex undetermined).

Also for black bears, preliminary results detected two major genetic clusters of bears, separated by a genetic boundary between US Route 2 and State Highway 20. Although the boundary is relatively distinct, it does not represent a complete barrier between clusters. Future analyses will explore whether this boundary corresponds to quantifiable landscape features, such as mountain ridges, and what else the data can tell us about the Cascades black bear populations around I-90.

Project scientists are now in the final analysis phase of this project, which will be completed in 2013. Stay tuned in the New Year for a final report from this tremendous body of work that helps explain just how connected carnivores are in our North Cascades.

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