To produce reliable estimates of the size or vital rates of a given population, it is important that the boundaries of the population under study are clearly defined. This is particularly critical for large, migratory animals where levels of sustainable harvest are based on these estimates, and where small errors may have serious long-term consequences for the population. Once populations are delineated, rates of exchange between adjacent populations can be determined and accounted/corrected for when calculating abundance (e.g., based on mark-recapture data). Using satellite radio-collar locations for polar bears in the western Canadian Arctic, we illustrate one approach to delineating wildlife populations that integrates cluster analysis methods for determining group membership with home range plotting procedures to define spatial utilization. This approach is flexible with respect to the specific procedures used and provides an objective and quantitative basis for defining population boundaries.
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Population delineation of polar bears using satellite collar data