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Temporal, spatial, and environmental influences on the demographics of grizzly bears in the greater yellowstone ecosystem

Wildlife Monographs

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Abstract

During the past 2 decades, the grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) population in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) has increased in numbers and expanded in range. Understanding temporal, environmental, and spatial variables responsible for this change is useful in evaluating what likely influenced grizzly bear demographics in the GYE and where future management efforts might benefit conservation and management. We used recent data from radio-marked bears to estimate reproduction (1983-2002) and survival (1983-2001); these we combined into models to evaluate demographic vigor (lambda [??]). We explored the influence of an array of individual, temporal, and spatial covariates on demographic vigor. We identified an important relationship between ?? and where a bear resides within the GYE. This potential for a source-sink dynamic in the GYE, coupled with concerns for managing sustainable mortality, reshaped our thinking about how management agencies might approach long-term conservation of the species. Consequently, we assessed the current spatial dynamic of the GYE grizzly bear population. Throughout, we followed the information-theoretic approach. We developed suites of a priori models that included individual, temporal, and spatial covariates that potentially affected reproduction and survival. We selected our best approximating models using Akaike's information criterion (AIC) adjusted for small sample sizes and overdispersion (AIC C or QAICC, respectively). We provide recent estimates for reproductive parameters of grizzly bears based on 108 adult (>3 years old) females observed for 329 bear-years. We documented production of 104 litters with cub counts for 102 litters. Mean age of females producing their first litter was 5.81 years and ranged from 4 to 7 years. Proportion of nulliparous females that produced cubs at age 4-7 years was 9.8, 29.4, 56.4, and 100%, respectively. Mean (??SE) litter size (n = 102) was 2.0 ?? 0.1. The proportion of litters of 1, 2, and 3 cubs was 0.18, 0.61, and 0.22, respectively. Mean yearling litter size (n = 57) was 2.0 ?? 0.1. The proportion of litters containing 1, 2, 3, and 4 yearlings was 0.26, 0.51, 0.21, and 0.02, respectively. The proportion of radio-marked females accompanied by cubs varied among years from 0.05 to 0.60; the mean was 0.316 ?? 0.03. Reproductive rate was estimated as 0.318 female cubs/female/year. We evaluated the probability of producing a litter of 0-3 cubs relative to a suite of individual and temporal covariates using multinomial logistic regression. Our best models indicated that reproductive output, measured as cubs per litter, was most strongly influenced by indices of population size and whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) cone production. Our data suggest a possible density-dependent response in reproductive output, although perinatal mortality could have accounted for the correlation. We analyzed survival of cubs and yearlings using radiotelemetry of 49 unique female bears observed with 65 litters containing 137 dependent young. We documented 42 deaths: 32 cubs, 5 yearlings, and 5 that could have died as a cub or yearling. Using a nest survival estimator coded in Program MARK, our best model indicated that cub and yearling survival were most affected by residency in the GYE. Survival was highest for cubs and yearlings living outside Yellowstone National Park (YNP) but within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone (RZ). Cubs and yearlings living inside YNP had lower survival rates, and those living outside the RZ had the lowest survival rates. Survival rates were negatively related to a population index, suggesting density dependence. Survival improved with higher whitebark pine seed production, greater winter severity, larger litter size, and higher female (mother's) age. We tested theories of sexually selective infanticide, but results were equivocal. We investigated factors influencing survival of subadult and adult grizzly bears usi

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Temporal, spatial, and environmental influences on the demographics of grizzly bears in the greater yellowstone ecosystem
Series title:
Wildlife Monographs
Issue:
161
Year Published:
2006
Language:
English
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
First page:
1
Last page:
68
Number of Pages:
68