Research Projects

Lynx and Wildfire

Historic wildfires in the North Cascades region of Washington State have impacted habitat for many of our wildlife species, including the endangered Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis). As larger, hotter wildfires continue to burn throughout this region, previously burned landscapes are beginning to regenerate. How are lynx using these landscapes? Do unburned areas (known as "fire skips") provide habitat for lynx in the wake of a recent fire? At what age is a burned landscape considered serviceable for a lynx population? Can we add forest management techniques that safeguard against complete lynx habitat loss in the face of growing wildfire risk?

We hope to begin answering these questions using a large array of long-term remote camera monitoring stations throughout the Pasayten Wilderness and in front-country burns within the Methow Valley. Our goal is to gain a fine-scale understanding of the ways lynx utilize varying degrees of burned habitat.

Black Bears in the Methow

Black bears (Ursus americanus) are common throughout the Methow Valley and encounters are generally infrequent, but bear sightings and reports of "problem bears" have increased in the last several years. Climate change, increased human development, and natural food availability can all contribute to black bear use of human-inhabited areas and elicit human-black bear conflict. For example, wild berries from fruiting shrubs are an important natural food for black bears as they pack on calories in preparation for their winter torpor. In years where wild berry crops fail, shortages of these vital calories and can increase a bear's willingness to navigate risks associated with human development to access anthropogenic foods, such as trash, orchard fruits, and bird feeder seeds.

The Methow Valley is in a position to examine and mitigate these factors before human-black bear conflict becomes a widespread problem. In collaboration with the Methow Conservancy, we will be recruiting community scientists to conduct black bear natural food surveys ("Beary" Walks!). Monitoring variation in natural food availability will contribute to a long-term study of black bear conflict mitigation in the Methow and help inform research related to black bear ecology.

If you are interested in volunteering for the natural foods survey project, you can sign up here!