by Airman 1st Class Jack Sanders
3rd Wing Public Affairs
4/29/2010 - ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska (AFNS) -- Wildlife biologists and conservation agents from here along with researchers from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game are continuing a wildlife research effort in Anchorage, Alaska.
In 2005 researchers initiated a joint installation study to document brown bear populations, habitat, food selection and movement patterns on military land in the Anchorage area.
Research showed a large number of brown bears were traveling, sleeping and feeding near Anchorage homes, parks and along greenbelts, or large undeveloped sections of land. Several well used brown bear movement corridors were also identified on military land.
Being aware of the position and importance of wildlife corridors allows planners to avoid cutting off important migration corridors or blocking retreat of animals from residential areas when stressed.
In 2009, another JB Elmendorf-Richardson study was initiated to determine whether these corridors were important to wildlife other than bears. Since project initiation, some 18 moose, two wolves and 11 black bears were added to the sample.
Animals were captured and fitted with various collars containing Global Positioning System units. The collar design allows researchers to remotely upload the location data. The GPS units are set to transmit a signal every 30 to 90 minutes and provide researchers movement patterns and evidence of preferred movement corridors.
As data is uploaded from research animals, biologists plot a bright yellow dot for every animal wearing a GPS collar and their location on a map.
"If you look at just moose movements (on the map) they're using the same zone (as the bears)," said Herman Griese, a wildlife biologist with the 3rd Civil Engineer Squadron.
"We learned a great deal about brown bears as they negotiated between forested areas, around fences, along greenbelts and between cantonment areas," Mr. Griese. "Now, the movement corridor study will tell us what habitat moose, black bear, wolves and even wolverine or two need to squeeze out a living as our neighbors" Mr. Griese said.
Early findings confirmed a primary movement corridor splits the two cantonment areas connecting the undeveloped northern side of base with the Ship Creek riparian system. Another important corridor connects northern and southern areas of Fort Richardson.
The study is scheduled to continue and finish its segment on the black bears this year before moving onto other animals.
Mr. Griese said that he hopes to keep the program going to collect as much information as possible on all the species.
"Commanders need to know what the potential repercussions are of having aggressive animals on their installation, where they're coming from (where they're going) and what the potential risks are to military members," Mr. Griese said. "The knowledge that we gain only strengthens our wildlife program."