Grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem of the US Rocky Mountains have recently increased in numbers, but remain vulnerable due to isolation from other populations and predicted reductions in favored food resources. Harris et al. (2006) projected how this population might fare in the future under alternative survival rates, and in doing so estimated the rate of population growth, 1983-2002. We address issues that remain from that earlier work: (1) the degree of uncertainty surrounding our estimates of the rate of population change (??); (2) the effect of correlation among demographic parameters on these estimates; and (3) how a future monitoring system using counts of females accompanied by cubs might usefully differentiate between short-term, expected, and inconsequential fluctuations versus a true change in system state. We used Monte Carlo re-sampling of beta distributions derived from the demographic parameters used by Harris et al. (2006) to derive distributions of ?? during 1983-2002 given our sampling uncertainty. Approximate 95% confidence intervals were 0.972-1.096 (assuming females with unresolved fates died) and 1.008-1.115 (with unresolved females censored at last contact). We used well-supported models of Haroldson et al. (2006) and Schwartz et al. (2006a,b,c) to assess the strength of correlations among demographic processes and the effect of omitting them in projection models. Incorporating correlations among demographic parameters yielded point estimates of ?? that were nearly identical to those from the earlier model that omitted correlations, but yielded wider confidence intervals surrounding ??. Finally, we suggest that fitting linear and quadratic curves to the trend suggested by the estimated number of females with cubs in the ecosystem, and using AICc model weights to infer population sizes and ?? provides an objective means to monitoring approximate population trajectories in addition to demographic analysis.
Additional publication details
Population growth of Yellowstone grizzly bears: Uncertainty and future monitoring