Effects of a flooding event on a threatened black bear population in Louisiana

Animal Conservation
By: , and 



The Louisiana black bear, Ursus americanus luteolus, is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act as a result of habitat loss and human-related mortality. Information on population-level responses of large mammals to flooding events is scarce, and we had a unique opportunity to evaluate the viability of the Upper Atchafalaya River Basin (UARB) black bear population before and after a significant flooding event. We began collecting black bear hair samples in 2007 for a DNA mark-recapture study to estimate abundance (N) and apparent survival (φ). In 2011, the Morganza Spillway was opened to divert floodwaters from the Mississippi River through the UARB, inundating > 50% of our study area, potentially impacting recovery of this important bear population. To evaluate the effects of this flooding event on bear population dynamics, we used a robust design multistate model to estimate changes in transition rates from the flooded area to non-flooded area (ψFNF) before (2007–2010), during (2010–2011) and after (2011–2012) the flood. Average N across all years of study was 63.2 (SE = 5.2), excluding the year of the flooding event. Estimates of ψFNF increased from 0.014 (SE = 0.010; meaning that 1.4% of the bears moved from the flooded area to non-flooded areas) before flooding to 0.113 (SE = 0.045) during the flood year, and then decreased to 0.028 (SE= 0.035) after the flood. Although we demonstrated a flood effect on transition rates as hypothesized, the effect was small (88.7% of the bears remained in the flooded area during flooding) and φ was unchanged, suggesting that the 2011 flooding event had minimal impact on survival and site fidelity.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Effects of a flooding event on a threatened black bear population in Louisiana
Series title Animal Conservation
DOI 10.1111/acv.12114
Volume 17
Issue 5
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Leetown Science Center
Description 10 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Animal Conservation
First page 476
Last page 485
Country United States
State Louisiana
Other Geospatial Upper Atchafalaya River Basin
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