UPDATE: Canadian Bear Cub Release, Two Collars Drop!
After two months of good and steady information, the satellite tracking info started showing that Jason suddenly separated from Drew. As there was some movement coming from Jason’s collar, we considered an actual separation but then lost contact for a couple days. When contact came back, the data coming in from Jason was in the same 30meter area with very slight movements: something was very wrong.
The movement could be contributed to different satellites picking up the data or to scavengers moving stuff around. Fearing the worst, Angelika and Peter from our partners at the Northern Lights Wildlife Society (NLWS) rushed to Bella Coola and hired a helicopter to fly over the signaling collar. With great relief, the team saw no signs of a dead bear! But retrieving the collar would be a challenge because it dropped off in the worst possible place. It looked like Jason got his collar off on the top of a mountain and it rolled into a very steep area – so steep that only a professional climber with ropes and climbing equipment would be needed to retrieve it.
On September 2nd, we received more “Oh, no!” news. It looked like Drew dropped his collar too. The only up-side was that this time it looked like his collar was in a much more accessible area.
There are several reasonable explanations for why the collars may have come off. A likely one is that when placing the collars, enough space was given to allow for bear growth and the fact that the bears might have now lost some weight with the increase of exercise sustained during long hours spent foraging for food, could have resulted in a collar loose enough to come off. Unfortunately, unless we get them back, we just won’t know.
Organizing an expedition to retrieve the lost collars has proven to be extremely difficult. A volunteer has offered his climbing and telemetry knowledge, but scheduling between his work, Angelika and Peter’s commitments, the helicopter schedule and the disintegrating weather is proving to be an ongoing challenge.
The good news is that Lori and Dean are sending strong and steady signals! Dean is at the river fishing and Lori is pretty much hanging out in one general area. We suspect that Lori is staying away from the rivers because that is where all the big males try to catch fish. It’s a prime feeding area and subdominant bears will avoid areas with lots of bears, particularly big males.Working with the British Columbia government, we’ll be getting information on food availability in the areas that the bears have frequented. I’ll keep everyone posted.