Unity College Students Research Bear Population, Record Data for DIF&W

By Gluckman, Nell | Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), February 22, 2014 | Go to article overview

Unity College Students Research Bear Population, Record Data for DIF&W


Gluckman, Nell, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME)


UNITY, Maine -- Eight students from Unity College made a three mile trek deep into the woods on Saturday morning to get to what, at first, appeared to be a very inconspicuous tree.

But after wildlife technicians from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife used a chain saw to cut a square hole in the side of the tree, the students were able to look inside the hollow trunk at a 2-year-old black bear curled up at the base of the tree.

Student Justin Sutherland lifted the bear out of the tree so other students could check and record her temperature, weight, breathing and heart rate and tattoo a number under her lip. This wasn't the first time these students had encountered this bear. Last summer they captured and tagged her as part of Unity College's new bear study program. Under the guidance of associate professor of wildlife biology George Matula, the students completed an internship where they tracked and recorded data about the bears, which was shared with the DIF&W.

Though their internship is complete, the students were invited to work with the DIF&W officials on this trip. They also replaced a radio tracking collar on the bear with a GPS tracking collar, which will give the DIF&W a more precise read on her location.

"It gives them an opportunity to do some real life research," said Matula, who previously worked at the DIF&W. "They see what it takes to do something like this."

It takes guts and tact.

To figure out where exactly the bear was located, biology technician Lisa Bates climbed up metal pegs nailed into the tree to peer into a narrow hole 15 feet off the ground -- probably the same hole the bear used to get inside. Three other wildlife technicians stood by holding tranquilizer guns, "in case she runs," said Alex Nicolato, who graduated in December.

Since the bear was at the base of the tree, the technicians cut the square hole about 3 feet off the ground, just above where the bear was sleeping, and tranquilized it. …

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