Bye, lions! (No tigers.) Hey, bears!

Today my daughter Rae teamed up with two of the premier wildlife ecology guys in the United States in Minden, NV, population under 3,000. This is a long way from her home in Harlem, but not as far as her 2009 field work, tracking lions in Tanzania. Tanzania has plenty of black people. Minden has less than one tenth of one percent.

More black bears than black people, you say?

Rae is in Nevada to become familiar with the ecosystem of the black bears that form the core of her research. I am her designated blogger. I will do my best to keep you apprised, but when it comes to piercingly cogent questions about her work, please pose them in the comments section and I’ll ask her to respond so I’m not making stuff up.

Rae’s mission, overall, is to create a model that wildlife ecologists can use to assess the human-wildlife conflict landscape. Scenario: there’s wildlife in your kitchen/village/dwelling. Neither you nor the wildlife is happy about the situation or the climate change that probably caused it. Looking ahead, you want this not to happen for future populations (of wildlife and people). You want someone to figure out how to keep people and wildlife out of each others’ dwelling places (except for supervised human sports and recreation). Rae Wynn-Grant, our intrepid doctoral student, is out there working on just that.

Carl Lackey, with the Nevada Division of Wildlife, and Jon Beckmann of the Wildlife Conservation Society are sharing their considerable long term data sets with Rae, who will analyze them and collect additional data, as needed. The three are onsite in the Lake Tahoe Basin this month. The team will attend meetings about Nevada’s new law that permits the hunting of black bears. “There are lots of people suing and protesting,” Rae says. The biologists have the (unbiased) data that says that there are enough bears to permit hunting without endangering the species.

Check out a couple of recent black bear conflict and behavior articles here and here. I’ll post some of Rae’s 2009 lion tracking emails for backstory flava later on this week. Call your mother or a designated surrogate when nobody else in town looks remotely like you; it's a good time to be in touch. Here we go!

[Photo: US Forest Service]