Resource assessment for wildlife based ecotourism:monitoring of black, Spirit and grizzly bears
Wildlife viewing-based ecotourism relies on accurate accounting and predictable presence of their target animal populations. Spirit Bear Lodge, a community owned company of the Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation, operates a bear viewing operation throughout their Traditional Territory on the central coast of British Columbia. Their business plan and investment strategy require research to: i) identify areas of reoccurring presence and high densities of black, Spirit (i.e., white), and grizzly bears, ii) examine the potential occupation of grizzly bears on islands, and iii) assess the impact of grizzly bears on Spirit and black bears’ consumption of salmon, a primary food source that contributes positively to reproductive success and subsequent population dynamics. DNA sampled from noninvasively derived bear hair will allow the identification of unique bears and yield minimum population estimates. These data will also be paired with remote camera data to provide supplementary detection/non-detection data for all species. In concert, chemical markers indicative of diet will be sampled from the hair to provide an estimate of salmon consumption for all bear species. These data will be used to build models to estimate spatial patterns of species abundance, and assess the impact that grizzly bear presence has on the salmon consumption of Spirit bears, the primary viewing product of the business. This information will allow Spirit Bear Lodge to offer predictable and informative wildlife experiences. In addition, providing the opportunity for clients to interact with the research process and research product will produce a novel market offering that no other bear viewing business in British Columbia can offer.