Researchers hope two grizzly bears at the Saskatoon Forestry Park & Zoo will help them better understand bear conservation and health.
The Saskatoon Zoo and Alberta-based fRI Research have agreed on a five-year agreement for the project.
Over the next nine months, researchers will use a hair-based DNA analysis to determine the genetic identification of Mistaya and Koda, and study the effect of berry consumption on fecal-based DNA analysis.
They will also look at the planning and development of a natural enclosure at the zoo which will use research findings on grizzly bear habitat and behaviour.
There are also plans to secure funding for a conservation research and wildlife health department at the zoo, which would include the development and operation of a permanent wildlife health centre.
Saskatoon Zoo manager Tim Sinclair-Smith said they are excited to partner with fRI Research for the project.
“This program will provide an opportunity for the zoo to actively engage in conservation research, allow us to link research initiatives at the zoo to those happening in the wild and support the conservation of grizzly bears in Canada,” Sinclair-Smith said in a statement.
Gordon Stenhouse, a research scientist with fRI Research, said this is an important collaboration with the zoo.
“This partnership will allow us to communicate conservation research findings with zoo visitors and to work with captive bears to answer scientific questions which we hope will ultimately result in the long-term conservation of this species,” Stenhouse said.
Mistaya is the sole surviving cub from well-known female grizzly Bear 66, who was killed on the CP Rail tracks through Banff National Park in 2005.
He stayed in the wild until it became clear that he could not survive without intervention.
That same year, Koda was found orphaned in the Grand Prairie region. He was rescued and nurtured by zookeepers at the Edmonton Valley Zoo.
The cubs were paired at the Calgary Zoo and later transferred to their permanent home at the Kinsmen bear exhibit at the Saskatoon Zoo.