This summer, you might have some unexpected partners with you on your road trip: bears. That’s right, a grizzly bear “highway” has been found in British Columbia, Canada, according to research headed by indigenous Canadian people.
The study followed nearly 60 grizzly bears during a three-year span. They moved hundreds of miles to eat salmon during the fall in the Koeye River, but the researchers found preliminary evidence that bear populations are dropping. “When salmon availability is low, both physiological, i.e. nutritional, and social, i.e. dominancy hierarchies, factors have been implicated in lower reproductive output.” This could mean big trouble in soon-to-come times for these bears, admit the researchers.
This study is special because of its specific involvement with indigenous Canadians. Having lived in this area for upwards of 9,000 years, the first Canadians looked to strengthen their ownership of the Koeye River territory for conservation purposes. They are particularly aware of the ecological dangers that many natural resources face because bears and salmon are prominent wildlife in the area.
For many of the researchers on this project, it was particularly interesting to see the way that indigenous Canadian cultures and practices have shaped conservation efforts up until this point in history.
For example, while traditional science sought to stick grizzly bears with radio collars, native Canadians continue to believe that “out of a respect and understanding, certain areas should be off-limits to some, or all, human activities.” This implied that researchers used noninvasive methods of collecting hair and DNA samples, consistent with their long-time morals.
Filardi offers great expectations for this type of partnership because of both future research and the effective environmental conservation policy alterations. These types of research will help tribal leadership know how to proceed with their conservation efforts. Continued attention to this issued is needed in order to best preserve these majestic giants.
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