Hair Extravaganza

We approach the site in silence, hoping to find evidence of an ursid visitor. Crouching close to the ground, we examine each barb along the 25 m of fencing we set up. Having set up 71 of these barbed wire hair snagging stations across 5000 square kilometers, our work now consists of returning to each site to look for hair samples left behind by bears. At this site we are rewarded with 50 hair samples clinging to barbs.As Doug’s picture shows, we place each precious sample into a coin envelope. In the lab, we require as much hair as possible. Even a strand of underfur, weighing approximately 0.2 mg, may make the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful analysis. When all the samples are collected, we check the ground for additional hair as well as nearby trees where the bear may have rubbed. At the end of the day when we return to the field station, we will dream about sites like this where our efforts are paid off and our bulging coin envelopes are hung in the office to dry like little brown pillowcases.

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