Wild Jobs: Biologist Jeff Beringer

By | February 1, 2013
From Xplor: February/March 2013

Q: How do you use satellites to track bears?

A: We put special collars on the bears. The collars beam signals to a satellite in space. The satellite beams information to my computer to show where each bear is located.

Q: How do you get a collar on a 300-pound animal?

A: First we have to catch it. We use traps baited with day-old doughnuts. Bears are smart, but their stomachs often overrule their brains.

Q: What do you do once you catch a bear?

A: We give it knock-out drugs, so the bear can’t move or feel anything. It can still see, though, so we blindfold it, so it doesn’t get stressed. Once the bear’s out, we take all kinds of measurements, put on a collar, and pull a tooth.

Q: Ouch! Why pull a tooth?

A: We learn a lot from a tooth: how old the bear is, if it’s healthy, and — if it’s a female — how old she was when she first had cubs. Bears have plenty of teeth, and we pull one they don’t use.

Q: What’s best about being a bear biologist?

A: In winter we track bears back to their dens. I crawl inside to give the bear knock-out drugs so we can replace its collar. It’s great to see a bear again after following its life on my computer.

Q: Isn’t it dangerous to crawl inside a bear’s den?

A: Most of the time bears are snoozing and don’t know I’m there. Even so, I have someone hold my ankles, so if I wiggle inside and the bear doesn’t like it, my partner can yank me out. wildjobs

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This Issue's Staff

David Besenger
Les Fortenberry
Karen Hudson
Regina Knauer
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
Tim Smith
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White