CARNIVORE CONSERVATION

NORTHWEST CARNIVORE CONSERVATION & SCIENCE PROGRAM

Working for a wild future for Northwest carnivores.

ABOUT THE PROJECT

 

Carnivores, from big cats to canids to bears, are apex predators that play significant roles in their ecosystems. This function also means they live at naturally low densities and need large, relatively wild landscapes to survive in sustainable numbers. The Pacific Northwest supports a carnivore assemblage including cougars, Canada lynx, bobcats, gray wolves, coyotes, Cascade foxes, black bears, wolverines, fishers, martens and may soon include grizzly bears. Within the Pacific Northwest region, the Cascades and Olympic Mountains of Washington State are likely the only places in the contiguous United States, outside of the northern Rocky Mountains, still capable of supporting its full suite of native carnivores.

Unfortunately, the region has also suffered from a legacy of carnivore persecution, which has been compounded with habitat loss and fragmentation, and now the unpredictable and difficult challenges posed by climate change. Thus, many carnivore species have been reduced in number, and some—such as the wolverine, wolf, and fisher—were driven to local extinction and are only now beginning to recover. Others, such as the Canada lynx, maintain a tenuous hold, and could become extirpated in the near future.

Woodland Park Zoo’s Northwest Carnivore Science and Conservation Program focuses on recovering the Northwest’s carnivores in sustainable numbers by focusing on scientific research, education, and community engagement directed at humanity’s ability to coexist with these critical species.

 

 

Under the Living Northwest umbrella, Woodland Park Zoo’s Senior Conservation Scientist, Dr. Robert Long, expands the zoo’s wildlife science and conservation focus to include our Pacific Northwest mammalian carnivores (e.g., wolverines, Canada lynx, coyotes, Martens, fishers, cougars, black bears, grizzly bears). The focus of this program is on developing field research projects to address critical conservation questions relevant to carnivores in the Pacific Northwest, and conducting outreach to ensure the outcomes of this research are available to the public and other scientists.


Long-Range Goals

  • Establish Woodland Park Zoo as a leader for promoting and coordinating carnivore science in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Development of a regional remote camera network designed to complement and enhance separate efforts currently ongoing in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Establishment of multiple conservation research projects aimed at answering important, conservation-related questions about carnivores.

Washington Urban–Wildland Carnivore Project

Humans and carnivores can coexist in King County


The Washington Urban–Wildland Carnivore Project is exploring ways to promote coexistence among humans and carnivores in King County. A collaboration between Woodland Park Zoo and the University of Washington (UW) School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, the research explores how carnivores respond to urbanization and human activity by studying where and when they occur, what they eat, and what happens to the system when apex carnivores are absent. Woodland Park Zoo Senior Conservation Scientist Robert Long, PhD, oversees the project for the zoo, and UW graduate student Michael Havrda coordinates and conducts research on the ground. Mr. Havrda is co-advised by Aaron Wirsing, PhD, from the UW School of Environmental and Forest Sciences.


Focal Species

  • Cougars (Puma concolor)
  • Black bears (Ursus americanus)
  • Bobcats (Lynx rufus)
  • Coyotes (Canis latrans)
  • Raccoons (Procyon lotor)
  • Striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis)
  • Domestic dogs (Canis familiaris)
  • Domestic cats (Felis catus)

As human development continues to expand, research on species that occur within the urban–wildland gradient helps set the stage for land-use planning, public education, outreach and conservation. We are deploying remote cameras in forest patches on federal, state, municipal and private lands along a gradient of human development intensity, from urban to wildland. The cameras are placed along game or human trails, roads or other landscape features that maximize the probability of detecting the focal species.

 



About Northwest Carnivores

 

In the Field



The sciences of wildlife field ecology, spatial analysis, and molecular ecology have developed dramatically in recent years. New advances in “noninvasive” techniques, such as digital remote cameras, now enable researchers to detect and monitor species across expansive landscapes. Similarly, noninvasive hair snare mechanisms have been used to collect hair samples (and therefore, DNA) from a variety of carnivores, and professionally trained detection dogs have been employed to locate scat samples for DNA and other biological information. Zoo researchers will be using such methods to assess the distribution, movement, and ecology of carnivores here in the Pacific Northwest.

At the Zoo



Woodland Park Zoo’s Wild Wise: Coexisting with Carnivores engages middle school students in science investigations on large carnivores (bears, cougars, wolves) and human-carnivore coexistence in their communities. Through this program, facilitated by Woodland Park Zoo, in partnership with Western Wildlife Outreach, Issaquah Middle School students develop skills in scientific practices as they learn about the carnivores that live in their midst. Students use technology tools such as remote cameras and web-based surveys to collect data about carnivores to answer their own questions about patterns of local carnivore activity. The program culminates in a community education event, at which students present the results of their investigations about carnivores in their communities and propose strategies to help their communities coexist safely with carnivores.