If you go down to the woods today, you might be expected to pick up some bear poop. Well, you might if you live in Norway, anyway. Hikers in the Scandinavian country are being encouraged to collect any bear droppings they find while out on their rambles, and to send them in for DNA analysis.
“We encourage anyone who is outdoors this autumn to pick up bear droppings and hair and deliver them to the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate in the area,” Jonas Kindberg, head of Rovdata, an organization that monitors brown bear numbers, told the BBC. They hope that the information contained in the poop, such as the animals' DNA and what they were last feasting on, will help them learn more about the population living in the country.
Around 150 years ago, there were thought to be around 3,000 brown bears in Norway, but during the early 20th century they were nearly all wiped out. Last year, the official estimate based on DNA analysis found that there are around 136 of the creatures roaming the woods, but reliable numbers are often hard to come by, which is where the call for the hikers' help comes in.
The best method, according to Kindberg, is to turn a plastic bag inside out to collect the bear truffles – just think of it like a really big dog poop. The key is to avoid contaminating the samples with human DNA, and for those keener readers out there, there’s even a usefully illustrated brochure. Once collected, they’re apparently best stored in a freezer. Happy collecting!