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Alaskan Brown Bears: Sitkalidak Island

By Corey Jager

Sitkalidak Island is the third largest island in the Kodiak Archipelago of Alaska. These Alaskan islands are celebrated for their abundance of unscathed wild landscapes and provide fantastic hunting and fishing opportunities. Wild salmon streams are among the plentiful natural resources on the island, drawing particular interest from Kodiak brown bears. Although this brown bear subspecies has been genetically isolated on the Kodiak Islands for around 12,000 years, they persist as a robust population and are prized as trophies by hunters. The Kodiak brown bear population throughout the islands has been on the rise due to the security provided by the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, and sustainable harvest managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Although population data have been collected extensively for bears throughout most of the islands, minimal data are available for Sitkalidak Island and the eastern side of Kodiak Island. Research is underway to correct this deficiency through a partnership between the Kodiak Brown Bear Trust, Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. SCI Foundation has joined this partnership by granting $50,000 to support this study, which is aimed at providing a better understanding of bear population size, density, movement and resource use patterns. This research will enhance the current management strategies for Kodiak brown bears and potentially increase the hunting opportunities throughout the Kodiak Archipelago.

Sophisticated research techniques will allow scientists to safely immobilize twelve adult female bears and place GPS tracking collars on them. Blood and tooth samples will be collected to understand the individual health and age of each captured bear. The GPS collars can be used for long-term monitoring of the individual bears and allow researchers to understand where bears move throughout the islands and how they utilize food and habitat available to them. Bears share many food resources with humans, and humans harvesting resources in bear habitat may lead to bear-human conflicts. This study will provide valuable data for mitigating unwanted, and potentially dangerous, bear encounters with local citizens and travelers. Minimizing incidental confrontations with the guidance of updated population data will ultimately benefit both humans and bears on the islands.

SCI Foundation is proud to be involved with another project that embodies the commitment to science-based management of bears. The $50,000 provided by SCI Foundation is necessary for managers to understand the population of bears they are working with. Proper stewardship of brown bears requires information in a timely fashion. Working with partners, funds available for conservation activities go farther than if any of the cooperating entities worked alone. This allows a larger conservation footprint for SCI Foundation and fosters better work to be conducted for many species where federal and state money for research and management have waned.

SCIF Funds Conservation Projects

Safari Club International Foundation has contributed $537,590 in the past six months to fund worldwide wildlife conservation projects.

“The research programs selected by SCIF’s professional biologists inform wildlife managers and policy makers on critical wildlife management needs worldwide,” said SCIF President Joe Hosmer. “SCIF strives to ensure management decisions are based on the best available science.”

SCIF donated $350,000 to fund multiple predator/prey projects in the U.S. and Canada. Conservation projects include Predator/Prey studies observing rates of whitetail deer fawn survival in Michigan and Wisconsin, elk survival in Montana, and caribou survival in Newfoundland. The results of these projects will help properly manage both predators and prey in systems where both exist. Donations were also made to wildlife population research and enhancement programs including mule deer in the Eastern Mojave Desert, brown bears on Kodiak Island, black bears in Missouri, and moose in Alaska, among others.

The most recent project is a partnership with Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Kenai Moose Project. SCIF donated $20,000. In multiple African nations, SCIF has given more than $123,000 to wildlife conservation and human-wildlife conflict programs.

Most recently, SCIF donated $30,000 for the upcoming African Wildlife Consultative Forum, which will be held in Botswana. SCIF also continues to fund lion research in Zambia to improve the accuracy of aging lions in their natural environment.

Being able to accurately age lions in the field will assist range states develop appropriate lion harvest regulations to ensure sustainability.

“Throughout the year, SCIF contributes over $1 million to wildlife research, management and anti-poaching programs. As an international organization, SCIF continues to increase our financial impact for sustainable-use conservation and we hope more organizations can follow our lead,” said Hosmer.

Contributions to wildlife species made during the past 6 months include:

  • Lion (Southern Africa) $30,000
  • Elephant (Zimbabwe) $25,200
  • Leopard (Zimbabwe, Namibia) $18,000
  • Wildlife Genetics (Africa) $20,000
  • Brown Bear (Alaska) $50,000
  • Black Bear (Missouri) $25,000
  • Elk (Montana. & Ontario)$69,800
  • Whitetail deer (Mich. & Wisc$75,000
  • Mule Deer (Calif. & Colorado) $40,880
  • Moose (Alaska) $33,500
  • Caribou (Newfoundland) $8,550
  • Bighorn Sheep (Mont. & Wyo) $31,500
  • Dall Sheep (Alaska) $5,000
  • Predator ID Manual (Intl) $10,000
  • Conservation Matching Grants $8,000
  • African Wildlife Forum $30,000

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