• Winter light on the Fairweather Range

    Glacier Bay

    National Park & Preserve Alaska

Brown Bear Genetics Study

brown bear in grass
The first brown bears arrived in Glacier Bay from the east.
 

Population and landscape genetics of brown bears in Glacier Bay, Alaska
A study conducted in 2009-2010 examined the genetics of bears across Glacier Bay. Bear Hair DNA from 105 brown bears was collected from sites spanning across Glacier Bay National Park. Genetic and landscape analysis can be used to show how the landscape and population structure of brown bears are intertwined in Glacier Bay, and to help determine likely sources for brown bear re-colonization in the recently de-glaciated region.

 
Read the entire study. Masters thesis by bear biologist Tania Lewis

Read the entire study. Masters thesis by bear biologist T. Lewis

NPS

Results show that there are three genetically distinct groups of brown bears in Glacier Bay and that the rugged Fairweather mountain range and the wide fjords of Glacier Bay are both barriers to dispersal. Two genetic groups range far beyond the park boundary to the west and east, and one group was isolated long enough to undergo genetic drift and develop a genetic signature unique to northern Glacier Bay. This endemic subpopulation likely stems from an original group of colonizers from the east, while bears from the other two groups are more recent immigrants.

One recently immigrated group likely moved into the bay from the northwest, the other arrived from the northeast, and represent a second wave of colonization along the shoreline of Glacier Bay. These recent immigrants are beginning to mix with the original colonizers after years of separation, and soon the unique genetic signal of the original colonizers will vanish.

 
Bear genetics map in Glacier Bay
Map indicating genetics results in Glacier Bay brown bears
NPS
 

Did You Know?

Black Bear

Researchers believe that black bears, searching for new and abundant food sources, returned to Glacier Bay via the Endicott Gap. Today, the presence of black bears in the reborn forests of the lower bay is evidence of a successful search.