The long-term viability of small, isolated populations has been questioned in light of stochasticity and bottlenecks. Following a drought in northwestern Montana in 2003, the pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) of the National Bison Range experienced a demographic bottleneck. We used information theoretic approaches to examine the influence of sex, age, genetic variation, summer lactation, mate-search effort by females, and mating effort by males on subsequent winter survival and spring fecundity. Survival of males was influenced by age, whereas survival of females was influenced by prior energy expenditure and genetic variation, implicating inbreeding depression as the mechanism. Fecundity of females also was influenced by prior energy expenditure and genetic variation, with heterosis as the apparent mechanism. Our results agree with those of other studies that have emphasized the need to maintain genetic variation and limit inbreeding in small, isolated populations, and to account for stochasticity in population viability assessments and long-term management planning.
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