Bear tracking using radio
telemetry in the
Andes mountains is difficult due to the dense cloud forests and rough
terrain. Our bear tracking volunteers and field technicians
work very hard to collect valuable data about the bears' movements,
from radio telemetry data, bear tracks and occasionally bear sightings.
With this information, we are able to understand more about
the ecological needs of Andean bears and the space that they need to
To track wild Andean
must first capture them and fit them with radio collars. We
use use two different trapping methods. We have
several 'Iznachi' traps
Armando Castellanos), baited with cow feet, along
the paths that the bears use, and sometimes in cornfields that bears
enter in search of food. A
radio collar with a
motion sensor, which has been placed on the cage, is activated when the
sliding door of the cage closes. The presence of a signal emitted by
the device informs us if an animal has entered the trap. The
listened to every hour in the daytime by volunteers on "bear
we receive an
active signal from a cage we hike to the cage as
as possible. We try to have the bear trapped in the cage for
time as possible in order to minimize the stress experienced.
We are also experimenting
foot snares and have had two successful captures with these so far.
The snares are closely watched and we get to captured bears
In either case, we
tranquillise the bear, take measurements and
genetic samples before fitting it with a radio collar. The
bear is then
moved away from the cage or snare and left to wake in its own
The capture, immobilization and collection of samples are managed and
supervised by a veterinary doctor with extensive
experience in the handling of wildlife, who is available in
event of any emergency.
bears is a slow and difficult process and we are constantly looking for
ways to improve our trapping systems. In the future we hope
to use dogs
to track bears by scent.
In other countries, specially trained Karelian bear dogs are
used in human-bear conflict management and in 2010 we experimented with
using a trained bear dog here - many thanks to Lori Homstol and Sisko.
The results were encouraging and we hope to use this
in the future. See Lori's report of her trip on page 28 of the
IBA Newsletter. Armando
Castellanos was planning to visit Lori in Canada in 2011 to
gain experience in
working with a Karelian bear dog and apply this experience to his work
with Koda, our half-Akita dog here in Ecuador. This has not
so far been possible but we hope to find a way in 2014.
The radio-collared bears
are tracked by listening with a radio for signals from their
means of triangulation, the bear's location can be
accurately determined using three bearings from known points.
the locations of
each bear by taking bearings from designated stations, which have been
mapped with a GPS unit. Using mapping software, it is
determine the location of the animal. We can tell
types of habitats used by the bears, as well as those not chosen, by
comparing this data with a satellite image of the area. We
measure the Home Range and Core Area of each bear.
Localizations are placed on a 1:25,000 scale map of the
region and digitalized using the data program Arcview 3.1,
using a satellite image of the study area.
Andean bear sightings in
the wild are rare. Occasionally a few volunteers
have had the opportunity to watch bears whilst they are busy raiding
maize fields, but this is not frequent and is a matter of luck rather
than a bear watching tour. Tracking volunteers also search
for bear tracks in the forest, looking out for bear hair and scratch
markings on trees and bear footprints and scat on the forest
While tracking the
collared bears, we observe various aspects of bear
which are often outside the scope of our current field study.
Some of our observations have been published in scientific
articles, but we are always seeking funds or other resources to widen
the scope of our study and investigate more about the bears.
you are able to help with donations,
grantwriting or facilities for genetic analysis, for example, please get in touch.
See also research
opportunities for PhD or Masters students to do their thesis
with the project.
Bear Conservation Project: Bear Tracking
The Andean Bear Conservation Project tracks the movements of wild
Andean bears fitted with radio collars, and also searches for bear
tracks, scratch markings and footprints. The bear tracking
data provides information about the space and habitat the bears need to