Science series kicks off at Sagehen Station | SierraSun.com
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Science series kicks off at Sagehen Station

As the sun set over the Sagehen Field Station on Tuesday the bear and mountain lion stories began.The storyteller, Doug Updike of the California Department of Fish and Game, was the featured speaker in the first of a series of science talks that will continue at Sagehen throughout the summer. Updike is a bear tracker, but not a traditional one. He follows bear movements through GPS radio collars, and he sees whether the animals movements are affected by housing sprawl and other human activities.The results of his research, he believes, could be important to the future of habitat for a variety of wild animals. I think bears can be the champion for a lot of species, Updike said. If we preserve things for bears, we preserve habitat for a lot of species.To track a bear by radio collar, Updike must first trap the animal and sedate it. He does this by setting a foot snare that leaves the bear tethered to a tree, but unharmed until it is released wearing the tracking device.Updike also places strings of barbed wire that snare hair from the animals when they pass under the wire. By analyzing the DNA from the hair, he can track bear movements without having to capture the animals.By getting this data from the animal you can see how the bear uses the countryside, Updike explained.Updikes job also has him dealing with mountain lions, and he cleared up many of the misconceptions that surround the large cat at the Tuesday night talk.Although Truckee is right in the heart of lion habitat, humans are not on the menu, said Updike. The possibility of getting struck by lightning is greater than being attacked by a mountain lion, he said.For all the scary lore, Updike said mountain lions are actually a signal of a healthy ecosystem.When you are in this kind of habitat and there are no lions, it is a signal that something is wrong, he said.Updike said that clearing brush around homes, not feeding deer, installing motion sensitive lighting, and running or biking with a partner reduces the chance a person will be attacked by a mountain lion.One of the best solutions is to make your property less attractive to lions, Updike said.


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