Tracking and Modeling the Population of the Louisiana Black Bear Using “BearTRAK”

Science Center Objects

"BearTrak" is an app that provides a central repository for Louisiana Black Bear tracking data, allowing managers to access information more quickly and reliably.

BearTRAK entry interface form illustration
BearTRAK entry interface form illustration

Science Issue and Relevance: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) are tasked with tracking populations and distributions of black bears in Louisiana, ensuring and monitoring the health and well-being of the species, and making informed decisions on population control when bears become a threat to humans. For decades, the LDWF office processed and maintained paper records of Black Bear nuisance reports, illegal kills/roadkill, and scheduled den visits. These records can, in part, be used to make informed decisions when dealing with nuisance reports. However, finding the appropriate documentation often proves to be a challenge. The BearTrak database and web application allows for data from the paper records to be stored in a central repository, and provides sophisticated querying capabilities such that decisions can be made much more rapidly and reliably.

BearTRAK entry cell phone app illustration
BearTRAK entry cell phone app illustration

Methodology for Addressing Issue: The WARC Advanced Applications team has developed a web application known as “BearTrak” which provides a central repository for all of the tracking data. Data entry covers a large number of variables and includes individual tracking identification, allowing resource managers to follow bear activity including offspring tagged during den visits. The query interface allows the user to find and inspect records using both data field based queries and geospatial queries. A companion, mobile optimized application even allows staff to make informed decisions in the field. For example, field biologists can query a captured bear’s PIT information in the database using their mobile phones and determine if that bear is a “first offender” or if it has a history of human interaction. Such information can immediately be used to determine the fate of a problem animal.

Future Steps: Working with LDWF biologists, a simple population model will be included in the overall application which will help inform future year decisions related to managing the overall black bear population in Coastal Louisiana.