Citizen Science—The Denali Grizzly Bear DNA Project

a bear in a meadow dusted with slight frost

NPS Photo

Are you going hiking or backpacking in the backcountry during your visit to Denali?

Would you like to know how many bears are in the backcountry unit that you’re going hiking in? We would too, and you can help us figure that out by signing up to be one of Denali’s citizen bear scientists!

The wildlife team at Denali is studying the grizzly bear population in the park, and you can help. Using modern genetic techniques and a team of grizzly bear citizen scientists, we are collecting DNA samples (bear scat) across the backcountry of Denali National Park.

These samples will be analyzed and used to estimate current grizzly bear densities and population characteristics in places that backcountry users frequent, helping to protect bears and keep visitors safe.

What will DNA From Scat Tell Us?

  • Species and sex of the bear

  • Genealogy, who’s related to whom

  • Home range of the bear

  • Bear population density. We are able to make some estimates of animal populations in Denali, but this project will improve that estimate for grizzlies.

How You Can Help

  1. Pick up a sample collection kit at the Backcountry Information Desk at the Denali Visitor Center (open 8 am–6 pm daily in summer)
  2. Use the kit to collect small samples of bear scat while you’re out hiking. The kit comes with simple instructions (or you can download the instructions and bring them with you).
  3. Return the kit before you leave the park to the Backcountry Information Desk.

What do you get out of it?

  • The opportunity to participate in and contribute meaningful data to a ground-breaking grizzly bear study.

  • You’ll also get a pretty nifty Denali Grizzly Bear DNA Team sticker.

  • And of course… bragging rights!

Frequently Asked Questions

We provide protective gloves, and specially designed sampling sticks in the sample collection kits, so you don’t actually touch the scat. Bear scat generally doesn’t smell because it’s mostly comprised of berries at this time of year. A photo gallery lower on this page illustrates what bear scat looks like.

The sample kits are fairly small. It will take up about the same amount of space as an extra pair of socks, and they’re about the same weight. Look below for an idea of the kit's size.

You can pick up kits at the Backcountry Information Desk in the Denali Visitor Center. If you call (907-683-9574) ahead of time, we can also try to meet you at your camper bus with a kit, in case you forget to pick one up at the visitor center but still want to participate.
You can return your kit to the same place you got it, at the Backcountry Information Desk. If you arrive after 6 pm, use the kit return box (located on top of the after-hours bear resistant food container (BRFC) return), outside the main doors of the Denali Visitor Center

If you have other questions, you can email our wildlife technicians or call (907) 683-9574.

DNA Collection Kit
a man holding a small, palm-size package a plastic bag, pencil, latex gloves, small plastic vials, a small electronic device, and plastic sticks
The kit packs up quite small and weighs very little NPS Photo
An exploded view of items in the DNA kit NPS Photo


Last updated: July 18, 2019

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 9
Denali Park, AK 99755


(907) 683-9532
A ranger is available 9 am—4 pm daily (except on major holidays). If you get to the voicemail, please leave a message and we'll call you back as soon as we finish with the previous caller.

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