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Lander, WY, United States

Higgs M.D.,Montana State University | Link W.A.,U.S. Geological Survey | White G.C.,Colorado State University | Haroldson M.A.,U.S. Geological Survey | Bjornlie D.D.,Large Carnivore Section
Journal of Agricultural, Biological, and Environmental Statistics

Mark-resight designs for estimation of population abundance are common and attractive to researchers. However, inference from such designs is very limited when faced with sparse data, either from a low number of marked animals, a low probability of detection, or both. In the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, yearly mark-resight data are collected for female grizzly bears with cubs-of-the-year (FCOY), and inference suffers from both limitations. To overcome difficulties due to sparseness, we assume homogeneity in sighting probabilities over 16 years of bi-annual aerial surveys. We model counts of marked and unmarked animals as multinomial random variables, using the capture frequencies of marked animals for inference about the latent multinomial frequencies for unmarked animals. We discuss undesirable behavior of the commonly used discrete uniform prior distribution on the population size parameter and provide OpenBUGS code for fitting such models. The application provides valuable insights into subtleties of implementing Bayesian inference for latent multinomial models. We tie the discussion to our application, though the insights are broadly useful for applications of the latent multinomial model. © 2013 International Biometric Society. Source

Costello C.M.,University of Montana | van Manen F.T.,U.S. Geological Survey | Haroldson M.A.,U.S. Geological Survey | Ebinger M.R.,University of Montana | And 3 more authors.
Ecology and Evolution

When abundant, seeds of the high-elevation whitebark pine (WBP; Pinus albicaulis) are an important fall food for grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Rates of bear mortality and bear/human conflicts have been inversely associated with WBP productivity. Recently, mountain pine beetles (Dendroctonus ponderosae) have killed many cone-producing WBP trees. We used fall (15 August-30 September) Global Positioning System locations from 89 bear years to investigate temporal changes in habitat use and movements during 2000-2011. We calculated Manly-Chesson (MC) indices for selectivity of WBP habitat and secure habitat (≥500 m from roads and human developments), determined dates of WBP use, and documented net daily movement distances and activity radii. To evaluate temporal trends, we used regression, model selection, and candidate model sets consisting of annual WBP production, sex, and year. One-third of sampled grizzly bears had fall ranges with little or no mapped WBP habitat. Most other bears (72%) had a MC index above 0.5, indicating selection for WBP habitats. From 2000 to 2011, mean MC index decreased and median date of WBP use shifted about 1 week later. We detected no trends in movement indices over time. Outside of national parks, there was no correlation between the MC indices for WBP habitat and secure habitat, and most bears (78%) selected for secure habitat. Nonetheless, mean MC index for secure habitat decreased over the study period during years of good WBP productivity. The wide diet breadth and foraging plasticity of grizzly bears likely allowed them to adjust to declining WBP. Bears reduced use of WBP stands without increasing movement rates, suggesting they obtained alternative fall foods within their local surroundings. However, the reduction in mortality risk historically associated with use of secure, high-elevation WBP habitat may be diminishing for bears residing in multiple-use areas. Seeds from whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) are an important food for grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, but a recent epidemic has caused considerable tree mortality. During 2000-2011, we found that grizzly bears reduced selection for WBP stands without increasing movement rates, suggesting they obtained alternative fall foods within their local surroundings. Outside of national parks, bears reduced selection for secure habitat when WBP production was good, indicating the decrease in mortality risk historically associated with use of WBP habitat may be diminishing for bears residing in multiple-use areas. © 2014 Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Source

Ebinger M.R.,University of Montana | Ebinger M.R.,U.S. Geological Survey | Ebinger M.R.,Montana State University | Haroldson M.A.,U.S. Geological Survey | And 14 more authors.

Global positioning system (GPS) wildlife collars have revolutionized wildlife research. Studies of predation by free-ranging carnivores have particularly benefited from the application of location clustering algorithms to determine when and where predation events occur. These studies have changed our understanding of large carnivore behavior, but the gains have concentrated on obligate carnivores. Facultative carnivores, such as grizzly/brown bears (Ursus arctos), exhibit a variety of behaviors that can lead to the formation of GPS clusters. We combined clustering techniques with field site investigations of grizzly bear GPS locations (n = 732 site investigations; 2004–2011) to produce 174 GPS clusters where documented behavior was partitioned into five classes (large-biomass carcass, small-biomass carcass, old carcass, non-carcass activity, and resting). We used multinomial logistic regression to predict the probability of clusters belonging to each class. Two cross-validation methods—leaving out individual clusters, or leaving out individual bears—showed that correct prediction of bear visitation to large-biomass carcasses was 78–88 %, whereas the false-positive rate was 18–24 %. As a case study, we applied our predictive model to a GPS data set of 266 bear-years in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (2002–2011) and examined trends in carcass visitation during fall hyperphagia (September–October). We identified 1997 spatial GPS clusters, of which 347 were predicted to be large-biomass carcasses. We used the clustered data to develop a carcass visitation index, which varied annually, but more than doubled during the study period. Our study demonstrates the effectiveness and utility of identifying GPS clusters associated with carcass visitation by a facultative carnivore. © 2016, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg (Outside the USA). Source

Bjornlie D.D.,Large Carnivore Section | Van Manen F.T.,U.S. Geological Survey | Ebinger M.R.,University of Montana | Haroldson M.A.,U.S. Geological Survey | And 2 more authors.

Changes in life history traits of species can be an important indicator of potential factors influencing populations. For grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE), recent decline of whitebark pine (WBP; Pinus albicaulis), an important fall food resource, has been paired with a slowing of population growth following two decades of robust population increase. These observations have raised questions whether resource decline or density-dependent processes may be associated with changes in population growth. Distinguishing these effects based on changes in demographic rates can be difficult. However, unlike the parallel demographic responses expected from both decreasing food availability and increasing population density, we hypothesized opposing behavioral responses of grizzly bears with regard to changes in home-range size. We used the dynamic changes in food resources and population density of grizzly bears as a natural experiment to examine hypotheses regarding these potentially competing influences on grizzly bear home-range size. We found that home-range size did not increase during the period of whitebark pine decline and was not related to proportion of whitebark pine in home ranges. However, female home-range size was negatively associated with an index of population density. Our data indicate that home-range size of grizzly bears in the GYE is not associated with availability of WBP, and, for female grizzly bears, increasing population density may constrain home-range size. Source

Bjornlie D.D.,Large Carnivore Section | Thompson D.J.,Large Carnivore Section | Haroldson M.A.,2327 University Way | Schwartz C.C.,2327 University Way | And 5 more authors.
Wildlife Society Bulletin

The distribution of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) population has expanded into areas unoccupied since the early 20th century. Up-to-date information on the area and extent of this distribution is crucial for federal, state, and tribal wildlife and land managers to make informed decisions regarding grizzly bear management. The most recent estimate of grizzly bear distribution (2004) utilized fixed-kernel density estimators to describe distribution. This method was complex and computationally time consuming and excluded observations of unmarked bears. Our objective was to develop a technique to estimate grizzly bear distribution that would allow for the use of all verified grizzly bear location data, as well as provide the simplicity to be updated more frequently. We placed all verified grizzly bear locations from all sources from 1990 to 2004 and 1990 to 2010 onto a 3-km×3-km grid and used zonal analysis and ordinary kriging to develop a predicted surface of grizzly bear distribution. We compared the area and extent of the 2004 kriging surface with the previous 2004 effort and evaluated changes in grizzly bear distribution from 2004 to 2010. The 2004 kriging surface was 2.4% smaller than the previous fixedkernel estimate, but more closely represented the data. Grizzly bear distribution increased 38.3% from 2004 to 2010, with most expansion in the northern and southern regions of the range. This technique can be used to provide a current estimate of grizzly bear distribution for management and conservation applications. © 2013 The Wildlife Society. Source

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