The Recovery Plan for the federally threatened Louisiana black bear (Ursus americanus luteolus) mandates that remnant populations be estimated and monitored. In 1999 we obtained genetic material with barbed-wire hair traps to estimate bear population size and genetic diversity at the 329-km2 Tensas River Tract, Louisiana. We constructed and monitored 122 hair traps, which produced 1,939 hair samples. Of those, we randomly selected 116 subsamples for genetic analysis and used up to 12 microsatellite DNA markers to obtain multilocus genotypes for 58 individuals. We used Program CAPTURE to compute estimates of population size using multiple mark-recapture models. The area of study was almost entirely circumscribed by agricultural land, thus the population was geographically closed. Also, study-area boundaries were biologically discreet, enabling us to accurately estimate population density. Using model Chao Mh to account for possible effects of individual heterogeneity in capture probabilities, we estimated the population size to be 119 (SE=29.4) bears, or 0.36 bears/km2. We were forced to examine a substantial number of loci to differentiate between some individuals because of low genetic variation. Despite the probable introduction of genes from Minnesota bears in the 1960s, the isolated population at Tensas exhibited characteristics consistent with inbreeding and genetic drift. Consequently, the effective population size at Tensas may be as few as 32, which warrants continued monitoring or possibly genetic augmentation.
Additional publication details
Estimating black bear population density and genetic diversity at Tensas River, Louisiana using microsatellite DNA markers