February 26, 2012

Live video: Maine's latest bear necessity

Wildlife group's black bear cam allows public to watch and learn along with biologists

By Deirdre Fleming dfleming@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Lisa Bates and John Wood with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife remove a sedated mother bear from her den in the woods of Washington County to check on her general health, weigh her and replace her radio collar.

Photos by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Lisa Bates, a biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, carries a tranquilized yearling back to its den earlier this month while doing research on black bears in Washington County. The department typically visits about 100 dens each winter.

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The Wildlife Research Foundation is a new nonprofit with the mission of supporting wildlife research, particularly on Maine’s black bear.

Started by guides Bert and Hank Goodman, owners of North Country Lodge sporting camp in Patten, the foundation placed a webcam in a remote bear den in northern Maine.

To learn more about the foundation or to see the black bear den video, go to www.wildliferesearchfoundation.org.

Wally Jakubus, the mammal group leader at IF&W, said the bear study is adequately funded. The program has a budget of $70,000, which does not include the salaries of biologists, he said.

But the founders of the Wildlife Research Foundation, brothers Bert and Hank Goodman, both registered Maine guides, said they were surprised when they went on a den visit and saw the state biologists relying on donated and second-hand materials.

"(The biologist's) gloves were donated, his flashlight was donated, and his two sleds were outdated. It was just terrible," Bert Goodman said.

Working with IF&W's biologists, the Goodmans set up the video camera and website, which features the live streaming video, still photos, profiles of the state's bear program members and solicitations to donate.

The brothers also started pitching den tours to the general public -- priced at $5,000. They plan to coordinate those tours with the biologists when they normally visit the dens, between January and March. It's something the state has done for years for education groups -- at no charge.

Holding public tours to raise conservation funds is a new approach to the state's wildlife work, but seeking private funds to support public agencies is not a new mission for nonprofit conservation groups.

For years, nonprofit groups have sought and contributed funds to help state and federal natural resource agencies in Maine.

"I often wondered why there wasn't a bear conservation group," said Robb Cotiaux, president of the National Wild Turkey Federation's Maine chapter.

In 2008, Safari Club International gave the state IF&W $5,800 to purchase black bear GPS collars; in 2009, the club's Maine chapter donated another $6,000 to complete the purchase.

The turkey federation raises $20,000 annually to fund state biologists' work growing the turkey population here, Cotiaux said. The program has increased the state population from 10 birds to an estimated statewide population of 61,000.

"Our goal was to restore the wild turkey to all suitable habitat. The IF&W people saw that and our desire to restore a species. It took a long time to build that relationship. They're the paid professionals. Ultimately, they had the say," said Jim Wescott of Windham, the 2012 recipient of the federation's national conservation award.

Friends of Acadia may be the best example in Maine of a conservation group that partnered with a government agency to successfully fund conservation work.

Since 1986, the group has granted more than $17 million to help preserve Acadia National Park's land, said Marla Stellpflug O'Byrne, the Friends president.

"We look to how we can expand the park's ability to do its job, not replace what it's doing," O'Byrne said.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:


Twitter: Flemingpph


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