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SanMac Goes Into The Wild

SanMac Brushes find a New Purpose Studying Rocky Mountain Carnivores

The Canada Lynx is Just One of the Focal Species Involved in this Study

It’s not every day that Sanderson MacLeod gets the opportunity to support environmental research and conservation efforts—so when we were approached in 2020 with a special request for .30 cal gun brushes, we were excited to say the least. But there was a catch…

Despite typically being used to clean firearm bores, these twisted wire brushes were not used for anything even remotely close to gun cleaning. They were instead purchased for the sole purpose of humanely collecting genetic material from some of the most majestic carnivores in North America.

Once this data is compiled, it allows the researchers at Swan Valley Connections to develop a deeper understanding of these populations in the wild. Additionally, it helps them to design and implement more effective conservation strategies by working with the Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Forest Service.

We talk a lot about how SanMac lives and breathes innovation. However, it’s rare to find customers who are as unique and innovative on their end of the brush as we are. Swan Valley Connections and their collaboration with the Southwestern Crown of the Continent carnivore monitoring project were able to find an ingenious way to utilize twisted wire firearm cleaning brushes to effectively and safely collect fur samples from animals such as Canada lynx, fisher, marten and wolverine in a way that is totally non-invasive to the animals.

When first approached by Swan Valley Connections, Sanderson MacLeod President and CEO Mark N. Borsari couldn’t help but shake his head and chuckle a bit.

“You know, over the years we’ve applied brush technology in some very, very unique ways,” he said. “But, come on… SanMac brushes in the Rockies surrounded by wolverines and other endangered carnivores? That’s a use for our brushes that’s so cool we just had to be part of it.”

And, while animals such as Wolverines and Canada Lynx don’t typically get much attention in and around SanMac’s small, Western Massachusetts area, Borsari was undeterred. “Actually,” he laughed, “We’re more than fine with the idea that the animals and research is out west…We’ll stick to just making the brushes.”

So how did SVC pull this off? They use our brushes in a way that we would have never envisioned—by bolting .30 cal gun brushes onto trees throughout the Swan Valley in western Montana. Then, they hoist animal carcasses (usually repurposed roadkill) up into the trees to lure the carnivores that they are trying to research.

Attracted to this meat by their acute sense of smell, these hunters then climb the trees to secure their meal. In the process, the gun brushes collect fur and other genetic material by trapping it within the tightly coiled metal brush fiber.

Once the team has determined that a sample has been collected at one of their bait stations, the biologists strap on their snow shoes and make the cold trek to recover the material now lodged in the gun brush fiber. After the samples are collected, they are sent to a lab to determine what kind of animal they came from, and what the movement patterns of these animals can tell us about the development and interaction of the various aspects of the ecosystem.

These findings not only help the researchers determine future land management decisions impacting the Crown of the Continent ecosystem, but also to help understand how the behavioral patterns in the focal species can help guide more effective research operations in the future.

By identifying “hot spots” and common travel routes of the animals, researchers can better plan initiatives such as GPS collar deployment, more intensive roadless surveys and compiling more accurate distribution maps.

After connecting with Swan Valley Connections last year for their first order of gun brushes, SanMac was thrilled to hear back from them again in 2021. Even though we are on opposite sides of North America, it’s exciting to know that our brushes are helping to make a difference in one of the most beautiful and environmentally diverse parts of the continent. We look forward to hearing their stories for years to come.

To find out more about the folks responsible for the great work at Swan Valley Connections, and to learn more about their mission, click the link below.