Conservation Research and Education
Grizzly Bear Program
The Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo has partnered with fRI Research to support the conservation and health of grizzly bears in Canada. The fRI Research Grizzly Bear Program provides an opportunity for the Zoo to become actively engaged in conservation research that goes beyond participating in breeding programs and displaying endangered species. Zoo grizzly bears Mistaya and Koda will be the focal point of the fRI Research Grizzly Bear Program which will be led by Dr. Marc Cattet who has been active in wildlife research, management and conservation for over 35 years. Cattet will be working closely with the Zoo to achieve the following program goals:
- To determine where Mistaya and Koda belong in relation to biologically-based grizzly bear sub-populations in Alberta;
- To determine if increased dietary intake of berries, as occurs prior to hibernation, reduces the efficacy of DNA extraction from grizzly bear feces;
- To assist the Zoo in the planning and development of a naturalistic enclosure for grizzly bears;
- To share the results of the grizzly bear wildlife health and conservation research activities with the public; and
- To secure funds to support the development and operation of a conservation research department and wildlife health laboratory.
Dr. Marc Cattet is a wildlife health researcher and veterinarian contracted to oversee conservation research and wildlife health at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park & Zoo. Marc has 35 years of experience working with a variety of wild species across Canada, but grizzly bears and polar bears have been prominent in his research. He will be the lead research scientist and program veterinarian for the fRI Research Grizzly Bear Program. In this capacity, Marc will play an important role in coordinating grizzly bear conservation and health research between the free-ranging bears in Alberta that are studied by the Program, and Koda and Mistaya, the resident bears at the Zoo. Marc’s research over the past 15 years has focused on understanding how human activities – be it resource extraction, recreation, and even research – impact the health of individual bears and, as a consequence, the performance of their populations. Much of his recent research has been directed toward finding ways of evaluating the health of grizzly bears without need to capture them, which in itself may affect health negatively. By adapting a “noninvasive” approach, where biological samples (for example, hair and feces) are collected from the environment instead of the animal, and then analyzed in a laboratory for various biological markers of health, it may be possible to evaluate grizzly bear health without inadvertently causing harm. Future work at the Zoo, in collaboration with the fRI Research Grizzly Bear Program, will advance and establish this new approach to wildlife health and conservation.