We used tetracycline biomarking, augmented with genetic methods to estimate the size of an American black bear (Ursus americanus) population on an island in Southeast Alaska. We marked 132 and 189 bears that consumed remote, tetracycline-laced baits in 2 different years, respectively, and observed 39 marks in 692 bone samples subsequently collected from hunters. We genetically analyzed hair samples from bait sites to determine the sex of marked bears, facilitating derivation of sex-specific population estimates. We obtained harvest samples from beyond the study area to correct for emigration. We estimated a density of 155 independent bears/100 km2, which is equivalent to the highest recorded for this species. This high density appears to be maintained by abundant, accessible natural food. Our population estimate (approx. 1,000 bears) could be used as a baseline and to set hunting quotas. The refined biomarking method for abundance estimation is a useful alternative where physical captures or DNA-based estimates are precluded by cost or logistics.
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