Black Bear Tooth Collection Program

The Fish and Wildlife Policy Branch has initiated a 3-year Black Bear Tooth Collection Program to help Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) make more informed management decisions. Black bear in Alberta are managed to maintain viable, self-sustaining bear populations that provide recreational opportunities for the public while ensuring low potential for human-bear conflict.

Hunters and landowners who harvest black bears in the following Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) are asked to voluntarily submit a premolar tooth to the Wildlife Management Branch:

  • 318 – 332
  • 500 – 504
  • 506
  • 509 – 512
  • 514 – 519
  • 529 – 531

To see a map of these WMUs, and which offices accept black bear tooth submissions, see:

Results Reports

How This Program Works

Learn more about the Black Bear Tooth Collection Program, how it works and how you may participate.

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  1. Extract a tooth, either:

    • In the field yourself (please see instructions below on how best to do this), or
    • By taking the skull to a local taxidermist or
    • By taking the skull to a Fish and Wildlife provincial office (see question header following for a list of offices) where an AEP biologist or Fish and Wildlife officer will assist you
  2. Place the tooth in a black bear collection envelope and complete the required information on the data label.

    Envelopes can be obtained from the Fish and Wildlife offices shown below, or by calling 403-845-8235.

    Local taxidermists within the WMUs of interest have each been provided with a few envelopes, as have outfitters operating in the area.

    To see a sample of the data envelope, download:

  3. Mail the black bear collection envelope along with its completed data label to the address shown on the envelope.

Office Location Address and Phone Number
Athabasca Main Floor, Provincial Building, 4903 – 50 Street,
780 675 2419<
Bonnyville 2nd Floor, Provincial Building, 4902 – 50 Ave
780 826 3142
Cold Lake Main Floor, 5013 – 51 Street
780 594 7876
Drayton Valley Penn West Petroleum Building, Main Floor
6521 - 50 Avenue West, Drayton Valley
780 542 6616
Fort McMurray 3rd Floor Provincial Building, 9915 Franklin Avenue
780 743 7200
Rocky Mountain House 2nd Floor Provincial Building, 4919 – 51 Street
403 845 8250
Lac La Biche 2nd Floor Provincial Building, 9503 Beaverhill Road
780 623 5240
Sundre Sundre Ranger Station
403 638 3805

The results will be posted on the Results Reports section of this web page once the teeth have been analyzed.

Information on each bear will be listed according to the hunter’s Wildlife Identification Number (WIN).

  1. Locate the premolar tooth. This is the small tooth just behind the canine. Please see the figure below.
  2. Loosen the tooth with a dental elevator or a small regular screwdriver. The tooth can also be easily loosened by running a knife blade on all sides of the tooth below the gum line and rocking the tooth back and forth. Note: the skull must be in an unfrozen state.
  3. Pull the tooth with a dental extractor or a pair of pliers. The root is needed for aging, so be careful not to break the root off within the skull. Ensure that the tooth is free of tissue and dry prior to submission.
  4. Place the tooth in the envelope and fill in the data label. Mail to address on pre-paid envelope.

Premolar teeth in the bear’s jaw

Premolar roots are set at an angle.

If you would like to download and print these instructions, as well as the contact information for participating Fish and Wildlife offices, download:

Premolar teeth from the harvested and ‘problem’ black bears will be analyzed to determine the:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Condition
  • Reproductive history

Age is determined by counting the annual rings in the tooth cementum (similar to counting growth rings when ageing trees). The thickness of the cementum in the different years can indicate if a female black bear has successfully reared cubs or not. Thin cementum layers reveal years in which cubs were reared.

The information from tooth collection is used by wildlife managers to determine

  • Age structure of harvest
  • Age of first reproduction and inter-birth intervals
  • Sex composition of harvest

Together this information assists managers in

  • Modeling black bear population trend
  • Determining sustainable harvests for black bear populations
  • Assessing acceptable human-caused mortality rates for black bears in each region

Many states and provinces currently set harvest targets based on the percentage of adult females in the harvest and the mean age of males, as determined from teeth.

In Montana for example, the following criteria are used to ensure sustainable harvest levels:

  • No more than 40 per cent of the harvest comprises females
  • Median age of harvested bears is > 6 years for females and > 4 years for males.

In general, bear populations with a high percent of females in the harvest and low median ages are thought to be declining.

Presently in Alberta, black bear populations are managed to ensure human-caused mortality does not exceed 20 per cent of the estimated provincial population.

Population levels are estimated from:

  • expert opinion
  • number of problem incidents
  • number of sightings

Mortality rates are determined from:

  • enforcement data
  • non-resident reported kills
  • resident hunter questionnaires

Updated: Jul 24, 2017