• Mother bear and three cubs gather atop a waterfall to search for fish

    Bears

Conservation Research

Bear being fitted with radio collar

Bear being fitted with a radio telemetry collar in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

NPS photo

Conservation research provides a foundation for managing and protecting bears.

Bears have been studied in national parks for decades, and we now have a better understanding of basic bear biology and needs. But bears must adapt to ongoing threats that affect the quality of their environment, available food sources, and ability to move through landscapes. In addition, many of today’s environmental changes are affecting habitats in new ways: the distribution of species is changing, animals are encountering species they previously did not, and habitats are shifting from one type of ecosystem to another. Ongoing conservation research is fundamental to understanding how these changes affect bears in parks and surrounding landscapes.

At the same time, advances in technology have led to new techniques to study bears that researchers did not possess in the past. Motion sensors, satellite tracking, DNA analysis, and other forensic techniques have all contributed to highly sophisticated methods to learn about today’s bear populations as well as bears that lived long ago. New technologies also allow researchers to study bears at larger spatial scales never before possible. Over time, the information collected is compiled into long-term datasets, which can help us understand how bears are affected by dynamic environmental change. Researchers are also integrating social science into conservation efforts to understand human preferences, motivations, and behaviors around bears and bear management.

Explore these pages to learn about emerging research questions and evolving technology used to answer them.