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East Missoula, MT, United States

Latham E.,University of Victoria | Stetz J.B.,Sinopah Wildlife Research Associates | Seryodkin I.,Russian Academy of Sciences | Miquelle D.,Wildlife Conservation Society | Gibeau M.L.,Parks Canada

Non-invasive genetic sampling (NGS) methods have been instrumental in providing robust population abundance and density estimates of bears. We conducted a small pilot study to (1) evaluate 2 NGS methods of hair traps and bear rubs in the Russian Far East (RFE) on sympatric populations of Asiatic black bears (Ursus thibetanus) and brown bears (Ursus arctos), and (2) to identify potential DNA marker sets for future study. Genetic analysis required 6 microsatellite markers to definitively identify individuals plus a gender marker, and closed population models estimated 142 Asiatic black bears and 18 brown bears. Spatially-explicit mark-recapture (SECR) density estimates for brown bears were 3 bears/100 km2. Inflated Asiatic black bear estimates resulted from a lack of recaptures, although using combined detection data from the 2 NGS methods was found to improve precision for abundance estimates. Capture probabilities were higher for brown bears than for Asiatic black bears, but overall recapture probabilities were low for both species. The frequency of rubbing declined from June to August, possibly due to bears leaving the study area, and Asiatic black bears were detected less frequently on rubs than brown bears, suggesting that species-specific ecology must be incorporated into future study designs. We recommend that future applications of NGS in the RFE improve capture probabilities by sampling earlier in the season to mitigate geographic closure violation for abundance estimates and to increase the number of detections for robust spatially explicit capture-recapture analyses. Our results demonstrate that NGS methods have strong potential for monitoring of bear populations in the RFE. © 2012 International Association for Bear Research and Management. Source

Hopkins III. J.B.,University of Alberta | Whittington J.,Banff National Park | Clevenger A.P.,Montana State University | Sawaya M.A.,Sinopah Wildlife Research Associates | St. Clair C.C.,University of Alberta
Isotopes in Environmental and Health Studies

Human-wildlife conflict is a leading cause of adult mortality for large carnivores worldwide. Train collision is the primary cause of mortality for threatened grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) in Banff National Park. We investigated the use of stable isotope analysis as a tool for identifying bears that use the railway in Banff. Rail-associated bears had higher δ15N and δ34S values than bears sampled away from the rail, but similar δ13C values. Because elevated δ15N values are indicative of higher animal protein consumption, rail-associated bears likely preyed on ungulates that foraged along the rail or scavenged on train-killed animals. The higher δ34S values in bear hair could have resulted from bears consuming sulfur pellets spilled on the rail or through the uptake of sulfur in the plants bears or animals consumed. Similar δ13C values suggest that the two types of bears had generally similar plant-based diets. Results from this study suggest that stable isotopes analysis could be used as a non-invasive, affordable, and efficient technique to identify and monitor bears that forage on the railway in Banff and potentially other transportation corridors worldwide. © 2014 © 2014 The Author(s). Published by Taylor & Francis. Source

Sawaya M.A.,Montana State University | Stetz J.B.,Sinopah Wildlife Research Associates | Clevenger A.P.,Montana State University | Gibeau M.L.,Mountain National Parks | Kalinowski S.T.,Montana State University

We evaluated the potential of two noninvasive genetic sampling methods, hair traps and bear rub surveys, to estimate population abundance and trend of grizzly (Ursus arctos) and black bear (U. americanus) populations in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. Using Huggins closed population mark-recapture models, we obtained the first precise abundance estimates for grizzly bears (N̂ = 73.5, 95% CI = 64-94 in 2006; N̂ = 50.4, 95% CI = 49-59 in 2009) and black bears (N̂ = 62.6, 95% CI = 51-89 in 2006; N̂ = 81.8, 95% CI = 72-102 in 2008) in the Bow Valley. Hair traps had high detection rates for female grizzlies, and male and female black bears, but extremely low detection rates for male grizzlies. Conversely, bear rubs had high detection rates for male and female grizzlies, but low rates for black bears. We estimated realized population growth rates, lambda, for grizzly bear males (λ = 0.93, 95% CI = 0.74-1.17) and females (λ = 0.90, 95% CI = 0.67-1.20) using Pradel open population models with three years of bear rub data. Lambda estimates are supported by abundance estimates from combined hair trap/bear rub closed population models and are consistent with a system that is likely driven by high levels of human-caused mortality. Our results suggest that bear rub surveys would provide an efficient and powerful means to inventory and monitor grizzly bear populations in the Central Canadian Rocky Mountains. © 2012 Sawaya et al. Source

Stetz J.,Sinopah Wildlife Research Associates | Hunt K.,University of Washington | Kendall K.C.,U.S. Geological Survey | Wasser S.K.,University of Washington

We examined fecal glucocorticoid (fGC) measures of nutrition and thermoregulatory demands on wild bears in Glacier National Park, Montana, and assessed how these measures changed in samples left in the field. Both ambient temperature and exposure can impact thermoregulation and sample degradation. Bear diets vary markedly with season, affecting body condition and thus fGC. We collected fecal samples during September and October, 2001, when ambient temperatures ranged from 30°C to -5°C. We collected half of each sample immediately and left the other half in its original location for 1-28 days. We used generalized linear models (GLM) to first predict fGC concentrations in fresh samples based on proxies of nutrition, ambient temperature, thermal exposure, and precipitation. These same covariates were then used to predict degradation-based differences in fGC concentrations between the paired sample halves. Variation in fGC was predicted by diet, Julian date, aspect, and the interaction between Julian date and aspect in both fresh and exposed samples. Cumulative precipitation was also a significant predictor of fGC concentrations in the exposed samples, independent of time, indicating that precipitation contributes to sample degradation but not enough to mask effects of other environmental factors on fGC concentrations. Differences between sample halves were only predicted by cumulative precipitation and exposure time; cumulative precipitation decreased, whereas exposure time increased, fGC concentrations in the exposed sample halves. Results indicate that fGC can provide reliable indices of nutrition and thermoregulatory demands in bears and that sample degradation impacts on these relations are minimal and can be virtually eliminated by controlling for cumulative precipitation over the estimated exposure times. Source

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