Date of Award

5-2011

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Wildlife and Fisheries Science

Major Professor

Joseph D. Clark

Committee Members

Lisa I. Muller, Arnold M. Saxton, Frank T. van Manen

Abstract

In 1992, the Louisiana black bear (Ursus americanus luteolus) was granted threatened status under the Endangered Species Act primarily because of extensive habitat loss and fragmentation. Currently, the Louisiana black bear is restricted to 3 relatively small, disjunct breeding subpopulations located in the Tensas River Basin of northeast Louisiana, the upper Atchafalaya River Basin (ARB) of south-central Louisiana, and coastal Louisiana. The 1995 Recovery Plan mandates research to determine the viability of the remaining subpopulations. I conducted a capture-mark-recapture study during 2007–2009 to estimate population parameters for the ARB bear subpopulation by collecting hair samples (n = 2,977) from 115 barbed-wire hair traps during 8 1-week periods each summer. DNA was extracted from those hair samples and microsatellite genotypes were used to identify individuals. I analyzed encounter histories using the Huggins full heterogeneity estimator in a robust design framework in Program MARK. I compared candidate models incorporating heterogeneity, behavior, and time effects on capture using information-theoretic methods. I directly estimated apparent survival, temporary emigration, probability of capture and recapture, and probability of belonging to 1 of 2 mixtures; population abundance was a derived parameter. Apparent survival was 0.91 (SE = 0.06) and did not vary by gender or year. There was some evidence of temporary emigration for males only (0.10, 95% CI = 0.001–0.900). I modeled capture probabilities with a 2-mixture distribution for both male and females. Overall mean weekly capture probability was 0.12 (SE = 0.03) and 0.25 (SE = 0.04) for males and females, respectively. Recapture rates indicated a positive behavioral response to capture. Model-averaged mean annual abundance was 56 (SE = 4.5, 95% CI = 49–68). I calculated population density using spatially-explicit maximum-likelihood methods; model-averaged density was 0.15 bears/km2 (SE = 0.03). My results updated previous abundance estimates for the ARB bear subpopulation and will be used in a population viability analysis to determine if recovery criteria for the Louisiana black bear have been met.

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