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Black bear populations are expanding throughout western New York. This expansion has led to more interaction between humans and bears. In an effort to learn as much as possible about western New York's expanding black bear population, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) began tracking bear movements through the use of standard radio-telemetry collars. Collaring female bears (sows) allows DEC officials to locate winter dens and obtain information on the adults and newborn cubs.
The number of cubs per sow, sexes, weights and body measurements all help in determining reproductive potential of the black bear population. This information is used to choose the best management strategy for black bears. In March 2010, Zoo staff accompanied the DEC on several Southern Tier den visits, both to lend expertise on the care of immobilized animals and to train DEC staff in the proper technique of ID chip implantation. ID chips are being used as a method of marking cubs too small for conventional radio collars or ear tags.
In 2013, the veterinary staff at the Zoo began collecting blood samples from the sows during these den visits. It is the goal to compare the values in the wild bears to those bears in captivity as another indicator of the health status of the wild populations. The introduction of new equipment used to monitor the sows while under anesthesia has also helped to keep the bears and those around her safe. For more information about New York's black bear program, click here.