Researchers ask "citizen scientists" to help track black bear population

Originally published on May 8, 2017 11:36 am

Wildlife researchers at Cornell University are asking for help from citizen scientists as they try to estimate the current black bear population in New York.

There have been no specific figures on the size of the state's bear population since the 1990s and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation wants to make sure population levels are safe for both wildlife and people.

"So if, for example, bear populations are expanding they can look at areas that might have increased human-bear interaction in the future to help them understand where to target public education and also to help inform their management decision making related to harvest," said Angela Fuller, associate professor of natural resources and co-author of a recent report that tracked the black bear population in the Southern Tier.

The paper, which was published in the March issue of the Journal of Wildlife Management, estimates approximately one bear for every three square miles of the 80-square mile area of the study in Steuben, Livingston, and Allegany counties. Fuller said black bear ranges have been expanding northward toward more developed areas, but researchers need the public's help to learn more because 50 percent of the land in New York is privately owned.

Cornell has a new app that allows hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, even those who are just visiting New York, to send researchers information about black bear sightings and signs from their smart phones.

"It collects information from people about the presence or the absence of bears, or bear sign, which includes scat, hair, tracks, or tree markings when they are out in the woods on a hike, or when they are setting up a trail camera and might track bears on the trail cameras," said doctoral student Catherine Sun, who co-authored the report.

You can find more information about the app and the study at iSeeMammals.org