Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
FIA Project Y072042

    Evaluating and refining guidelines for forested buffers for grizzly bear management
Project lead: McLellan, Bruce
Contributing Authors: McLellan, Bruce N.; Serrouya, Robert; Apps, Clayton D.; Pavan, Gary
Imprint: [Victoria, B.C.] : [British Columbia Ministry of Forests and Range], 2006
Subject: Forest Investment Account (FIA), Grizzly Bear, British Columbia, Habitat
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
The grizzly bear is a very high profile species that is classified as vulnerable in B.C. and integrating their requirements with intensively managed forested landscapes is a significant challenge and under intense public and professional scrutiny locally, nationally, and internationally. The level of attention on grizzly bear conservation in intensively managed landscapes demands high quality, unequivocal research and extension not only to operational foresters, but also to the international scientific and conservation community. The Sustainability Program Advisory Committee has recommended research on Species at Risk as a funding priority for 2005/06 and grizzly bears were highlighted to be of particular interest (Page 8, SPAC Research Topics). Although this project is related to several themes in the Sustainability Program, Theme/topic 4.1 Species at Risk recovery research is most appropriate. This project will focus on maintaining grizzly bear use of avalanche chutes and riparian areas in a managed landscape. Almost all grizzly bear studies in complex mountainous terrain have identified strong selection for these two habitat types. Current guidelines suggest forested buffers of specified widths be left adjacent to avalanche chutes and riparian areas. However, the determination of buffer-width and acceptable forest management within buffers (e.g., selective logging) was based on limited information. Additionally, there are no clear criteria for identifying which avalanche chutes or riparian areas should be buffered. Current guidelines may not be achieving the ecological objective of maintaining the level of bear use in key habitats (e.g. chutes and riparian areas), while at the same time are unnecessarily constraining to the forest industry. The main objective of this project is to evaluate and refine guidelines for forested buffers around avalanche chutes and riparian areas, to achieve a more efficient balance between ecological and economic objectives. This project will rely on three types of information and analyses. First is a retrospective analysis of previously collected GPS and VHF radio-telemetry data on grizzly bears in the Flathead River drainage (A FIA-FSP Long Term Research Instillation), the Highway #3 corridor grizzly bear project between Crowsnest Pass and Elko, and the Westslopes bear project centered on Golden, BC. These data will be used to test the hypothesis that grizzly bear use of avalanche chutes and riparian areas is related to the amount of forests of various ages in the landscape. This analysis will involve comparing landscape patterns at a variety of spatial scales around grizzly bear use locations in avalanche chutes and riparian areas to random locations within these habitats. Using Resource Selection Functions across spatial scales, factors influencing the level of use of these important habitats will be quantified. Using data from several areas will expand the range of inference of our findings, hopefully expanding the applicability of our results to other mountainous areas in BC and abroad. The second part of this project will involve experimental timber harvest near avalanche chutes in a portion of the Elk Valley. Grizzly bears will be captured and fitted with GPS collars that locate the animal hourly. After one year, timber will be harvested to leave a variety of buffer widths adjacent to avalanche chutes used by the sample of bears. Bear use of these avalanche chutes will continue to be monitored and changes in use documented. The hypothesis to be tested is that change in use of an avalanche chute by bears is inversely proportional to the amount of forest buffer left. We will clarify whether the relationship is linear, or whether it resembles a threshold pattern that can identify targets to be used by resource managers. These data will also be incorporated into the retrospective analysis above. The third part of this project will focus on radio-collared bears in the Elk Valley and the Flathead LTRI, but also in other areas throughout the Kootenay Region. In this phase of the project we will search forests within 150 m of the forest/avalanche chute edge for grizzly bear sign and in particular bear beds (a common use of forests adjacent to foraging areas). Locations of radio-collared bears will assist in finding bear beds. At each bed, several ecological site variables will be recorded including GPS location and distance to edge. These data will not only reflect on how far from the avalanche tract bears bed, but also what forest attributes are used for bed site selection. Ecological data at feeding sites and GPS location within the avalanche chutes and riparian areas will also be recorded. When combined with grizzly bear telemetry location data, an avalanche chute and riparian area ranking system will be developed.
Related projects:  FSP_Y061042FSP_Y083042
Contact: McLellan, Bruce, (604) 452-3233,


Executive Summary (27Kb)

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Updated August 16, 2010 

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