The population of American black bears (Ursus americanus) in southern New York, USA has been growing and expanding in range since the 1990s. This has motivated a need to anticipate future patterns of range expansion. We conducted a non-invasive, genetic, spatial capture-recapture (SCR) study to estimate black bear density and identify spatial patterns of population density that are potentially associated with range expansion. We collected hair samples in a 2,519-km2 study area in southern New York with barbed-wire hair snares and identified individuals and measured genetic diversity using 7 microsatellite loci and 1 sex-linked marker. We estimated a mean density of black bears in the region of 13.7 bears/100 km2, and detected a slight latitudinal gradient in density consistent with the documented range expansion. However, elevation and the amounts of forest, crop, and developed landcover types did not influence density, suggesting that bears are using a diversity of resources in this heterogeneous landscape outside their previously described distribution. These results provide the first robust baseline estimates for population density and distribution associated with different landcover types in the expanded bear range. Further, genetic diversity was comparable to that of non-expanding black bear populations in the eastern United States, and in combination with the latitudinal density gradient, suggest that the study area is not at the colonizing front of the range expansion. In addition, the diversity of landcover types used by bears in the study area implies a possible lack of constraints for further northern expansion of the black bear range. Our non-invasive, genetic, spatial capture-recapture approach has utility for studying populations of other species that may be expanding in range because SCR allows for the testing of explicit, spatial ecological hypotheses.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Evaluating population expansion of black bears using spatial capture-recapture|
|Series title||Journal of Wildlife Management|
|Contributing office(s)||Coop Res Unit Leetown|