Grizzly bears are an ecologically, culturally, and economically valuable species for British Columbia (BC) and Canada. Owing to this importance, many populations are intensively monitored by First Nation and Provincial governments to ensure effective and evidence-based management into the future. A key component of monitoring programs is the ability to identify individual bears. This individual identification is accomplished using a set of genetic markers that, when combined, provide a unique genetic fingerprint for each bear. Current practices to identify these bears involve limited genetic methods that leave much room for improvement.
This project will develop a new, robust, and cost-effective set of genetic markers for the monitoring of grizzly bears in BC which can be easily implemented across laboratories. These markers are called SNPs or single nucleotide polymorphisms, which represent tiny changes in DNA among individuals. They similarly produce a unique genetic fingerprint for each individual but can provide much more detail about how related bears are to each other, the history of monitored bear populations, and how well adapted different groups of bears are to their local environment.
To provide proof-of-concept and evidence of the ease and cost-effectiveness of the transition to this new marker system, an archived inventory of 367 ‘fingerprinted’ grizzly bear individuals from the central coast of BC will be transitioned to this new ‘SNP fingerprint’.
In the long term this SNP tool will allow grizzly bears to continue to be monitored and managed in BC with more information on their ability to adapt to changing ecological, environmental, and anthropogenic pressures.