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Manipulative experimentation that features random assignment of treatments, replication, and controls is an effective way to determine causal relationships. Wildlife ecologists, however, often must take a more passive approach to investigating causality. Their observational studies lack one or more of the 3 cornerstones of experimentation: controls, randomization, and replication. Although an observational study can be analyzed similarly to an experiment, one is less certain that the presumed treatment actually caused the observed response. Because the investigator does not actively manipulate the system, the chance that something other than the treatment caused the observed results is increased. We reviewed observational studies and contrasted them with experiments and, to a lesser extent, sample surveys. We identified features that distinguish each method of learning and illustrate or discuss some complications that may arise when analyzing results of observational studies. Findings from observational studies are prone to bias. Investigators can reduce the chance of reaching erroneous conclusions by formulating a priori hypotheses that can be pursued multiple ways and by evaluating the sensitivity of study conclusions to biases of various magnitudes. In the end, however, professional judgment that considers all available evidence is necessary to render a decision regarding causality based on observational studies.
Structural equation modeling (SEM) represents a framework for developing and evaluating complex hypotheses about systems. This method of data analysis differs from conventional univariate and multivariate approaches familiar to most biologists in several ways. First, SEMs are multiequational and capable of representing a wide array of complex hypotheses about how system components interrelate. Second, models are typically developed based on theoretical knowledge and designed to represent competing hypotheses about the processes responsible for data structure. Third, SEM is conceptually based on the analysis of covariance relations. Most commonly, solutions are obtained using maximum-likelihood solution procedures, although a variety of solution procedures are used, including Bayesian estimation. Numerous extensions give SEM a very high degree of flexibility in dealing with nonnormal data, categorical responses, latent variables, hierarchical structure, multigroup comparisons, nonlinearities, and other complicating factors. Structural equation modeling allows researchers to address a variety of questions about systems, such as how different processes work in concert, how the influences of perturbations cascade through systems, and about the relative importance of different influences. I present 2 example applications of SEM, one involving interactions among lynx (Lynx pardinus), mongooses (Herpestes ichneumon), and rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), and the second involving anuran species richness. Many wildlife ecologists may find SEM useful for understanding how populations function within their environments. Along with the capability of the methodology comes a need for care in the proper application of SEM.
I provide a brief introduction to the concept of spatial autocorrelation and its incorporation into regression-type models. Spatial autocorrelation occurs when the response variable is correlated with itself at other locations in the region of interest. The autocorrelation usually takes a specific form where observations close in space are more correlated than those farther apart, and the rate of decay of the correlation is a function of the distance separating 2 locations. I present 2 commonly used models: 1) geostatistical modeling in which data are collected at points in the study region and 2) conditional autoregression (lattice) models in which data are aggregated over small nonoverlapping sub-areas of the study region. I also describe incorporation of explanatory covariates, such as habitat or physico-chemical attributes. I emphasize frequentist methods, but I briefly describe Bayesian approaches. I also provide some advantages, such as obtaining correct standard errors for estimators, and disadvantages, such as requirements for larger sample sizes, of incorporating spatial autocorrelation into the modeling effort. This information can aid researchers in designing and analyzing models of the relationships between species distributions and habitat. As a result, more informative models can be developed which further aid in management of wildlife.
We outline the features of a general class of statistical models (i.e., analysis of covariance [ANCOVA] models) that has proven to be effective for the analysis of data from observational studies. In observational studies, treatments are assigned by Nature in a decidedly nonrandom manner; consequently, many of the crucial assumptions and safeguards of the classic experimental design either fail or are absent. Hence, inferences (causal or associative) are more difficult to justify. Typically, investigators can expect the primary factors of interest, which are usually called environmental exposures rather than treatments, to be involved in complex interactions with each other and with other factors, and these factors will be confounded with still other factors. We provide examples illustrating the application of ANCOVA models to adjust for confounding factors and complex interactions, thereby providing relatively clean estimates of association between exposure and response. We summarize information on available software and supporting literature for implementing ANCOVA models for the analysis of cross-sectional and longitudinal observational field data. We conclude with a brief discussion of critical model fitting issues, including proper specification of the functional form of continuous covariates and problems associated with overfitted models and misspecified models that lack important covariates.
Annual surveys of wildlife populations provide information about annual rates of change in populations but provide no information about when such changes occur. However, by combining data from 2 annual surveys, conducted in different parts of the year, seasonal components of population change can be estimated. We describe a hierarchical model for simultaneous analysis of 2 continent-scale monitoring programs. The Christmas Bird Count is an early winter survey, whereas the North American Breeding Bird Survey is conducted in June. Combining information from these surveys permits estimation of seasonal population variance components and improves estimation of long-term population trends. The composite analysis also controls for survey-specific sampling effects. We applied the model to estimation of population change in northern bobwhites (Colinus virginianus). Over the interval 1969–2004, bobwhite populations declined, with trend estimate of −3.56% per year (95% CI = [−3.80%, −3.32%]) in the surveyed portion of their range. Our analysis of seasonal population variance components indicated that northern bobwhite populations changed more in the winter and spring portion of the year than in the summer and fall portion of the year.
Disease surveillance in wildlife populations involves detecting the presence of a disease, characterizing its prevalence and spread, and subsequent monitoring. A probability sample of animals selected from the population and corresponding estimators of disease prevalence and detection provide estimates with quantifiable statistical properties, but this approach is rarely used. Although wildlife scientists often assume probability sampling and random disease distributions to calculate sample sizes, convenience samples (i.e., samples of readily available animals) are typically used, and disease distributions are rarely random. We demonstrate how landscape-based simulation can be used to explore properties of estimators from convenience samples in relation to probability samples. We used simulation methods to model what is known about the habitat preferences of the wildlife population, the disease distribution, and the potential biases of the convenience-sample approach. Using chronic wasting disease in free-ranging deer (Odocoileus virginianus) as a simple illustration, we show that using probability sample designs with appropriate estimators provides unbiased surveillance parameter estimates but that the selection bias and coverage errors associated with convenience samples can lead to biased and misleading results. We also suggest practical alternatives to convenience samples that mix probability and convenience sampling. For example, a sample of land areas can be selected using a probability design that oversamples areas with larger animal populations, followed by harvesting of individual animals within sampled areas using a convenience sampling method.
Wind has become one of the fastest growing sources of renewable energy worldwide, but widespread and often extensive fatalities of bats have increased concern regarding the impacts of wind energy development on bats and other wildlife. We synthesized available information on patterns of bat fatalities from a review of 21 postconstruction fatality studies conducted at 19 facilities in 5 United States regions and one Canadian province. Dominance of migratory, foliage- and tree-roosting lasiurine species (e.g., hoary bat [Lasiurus cinereus]) killed by turbines was consistent among studies. Bat fatalities, although highly variable and periodic, consistently peaked in late summer and fall, coinciding with migration of lasiurines and other species. A notable exception was documented fatalities of pregnant female Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) in May and June at a facility in Oklahoma, USA, and female silver-haired bats (Lasionycteris noctivagans) during spring in Tennessee, USA, and Alberta, Canada. Most studies reported that fatalities were distributed randomly across turbines at a site, although the highest number of fatalities was often found near the end of turbine strings. Two studies conducted simultaneously in the same region documented similar timing of fatalities between sites, which suggests broader patterns of collisions dictated by weather, prey abundance, or other factors. None of the studies found differences in bat fatalities between turbines equipped with lighting required by the Federal Aviation Administration and turbines that were unlit. All studies that addressed relationships between bat fatalities and weather patterns found that most bats were killed on nights with low wind speed (<6 m/sec) and that fatalities increased immediately before and after passage of storm fronts. Weather patterns may be predictors of bat activity and fatality; thus, mitigation efforts that focus on these high-risk periods could reduce bat fatality substantially. We caution that estimates of bat fatality are conditioned by length of study and search interval and that they are biased in relation to how searcher efficiency, scavenger removal, and habitat differences were or were not accounted for. Our review will assist managers, biologists, and decision-makers with understanding unifying and unique patterns of bat fatality, biases, and limitations of existing efforts, and it will aid in designing future research needed to develop mitigation strategies for minimizing or eliminating bat fatality at wind facilities.
We analyzed harvest data to describe hunting patterns and harvest demography of brown bears (Ursus arctos) killed in 3 geographic regions in Sweden during 1981–2004. In addition, we investigated the effects of a ban on baiting, instituted in 2001, and 2 major changes in the quota system: a switch to sex-specific quotas in 1992 and a return to total quotas in 1999. Brown bears (n = 887) were harvested specifically by bear hunters and incidentally by moose (Alces alces) hunters. Both hunter categories harvested bears 1) using dogs (37%), 2) by still hunting (30%), 3) with the use of bait (18%), and 4) by stalking (16%). The proportion of bears killed with different harvest methods varied among regions and between bear- and moose-oriented hunters. We found differences between male (52%) and female bears (48%) with respect to the variables that explained age. Moose-oriented hunters using still hunting harvested the youngest male bears. Bears harvested during the first management period (1981–1991) were older and had greater odds of being male than during the subsequent period. It appears that hunters harvesting bears in Sweden are less selective than their North American counterparts, possibly due to differences in the hunting system. When comparing the 4 years immediately prior to the ban on baiting with the 4 years following the ban, we found no differences in average age of harvested bears, sex ratio, or proportion of bears killed with stalking, still hunting, and hunting with dogs, suggesting that the ban on baiting in Sweden had no immediate effect on patterns of brown bear harvest demography and remaining hunting methods. As the demographic and evolutionary side effects of selective harvesting receive growing attention, wildlife managers should be aware that differences in harvest systems between jurisdictions may cause qualitative and quantitative differences in harvest biases.
Managers of recovering wolf (Canis lupus) populations require knowledge regarding the potential impacts caused by the loss of territorial, breeding wolves when devising plans that aim to balance population goals with human concerns. Although ecologists have studied wolves extensively, we lack an understanding of this phenomenon as published records are sparse. Therefore, we pooled data (n = 134 cases) on 148 territorial breeding wolves (75 M and 73 F) from our research and published accounts to assess the impacts of breeder loss on wolf pup survival, reproduction, and territorial social groups. In 58 of 71 cases (84%), ≥1 pup survived, and the number or sex of remaining breeders (including multiple breeders) did not influence pup survival. Pups survived more frequently in groups of ≥6 wolves (90%) compared with smaller groups (68%). Auxiliary nonbreeders benefited pup survival, with pups surviving in 92% of cases where auxiliaries were present and 64% where they were absent. Logistic regression analysis indicated that the number of adult-sized wolves remaining after breeder loss, along with pup age, had the greatest influence on pup survival. Territorial wolves reproduced the following season in 47% of cases, and a greater proportion reproduced where one breeder had to be replaced (56%) versus cases where both breeders had to be replaced (9%). Group size was greater for wolves that reproduced the following season compared with those that did not reproduce. Large recolonizing (>75 wolves) and saturated wolf populations had similar times to breeder replacement and next reproduction, which was about half that for small recolonizing (≤75 wolves) populations. We found inverse relationships between recolonizing population size and time to breeder replacement (r = −0.37) and time to next reproduction (r = −0.36). Time to breeder replacement correlated strongly with time to next reproduction (r = 0.97). Wolf social groups dissolved and abandoned their territories subsequent to breeder loss in 38% of cases. Where groups dissolved, wolves reestablished territories in 53% of cases, and neighboring wolves usurped territories in an additional 21% of cases. Fewer groups dissolved where breeders remained (26%) versus cases where breeders were absent (85%). Group size after breeder loss was smaller where groups dissolved versus cases where groups did not dissolve. To minimize negative impacts, we recommend that managers of recolonizing wolf populations limit lethal control to solitary individuals or territorial pairs where possible, because selective removal of pack members can be difficult. When reproductive packs are to be managed, we recommend that managers only remove wolves from reproductive packs when pups are ≥6 months old and packs contain ≥6 members (including ≥3 ad-sized wolves). Ideally, such packs should be close to neighboring packs and occur within larger (≥75 wolves) recolonizing populations.
Widespread mule deer (Odocoilus hemionous) declines coupled with white-tailed deer (O. virginianus) increases prompted us to investigate the role of cougar (Puma concolor) predation in a white-tailed deer, mule deer, and cougar community in northeast Washington, USA. We hypothesized that cougars select for and disproportionately prey on mule deer in such multiple-prey communities. We estimated relative annual and seasonal prey abundance (prey availability) and documented 60 cougar kills (prey usage) from 2002 to 2004. White-tailed deer and mule deer comprised 72% and 28% of the total large prey population and 60% and 40% of the total large prey killed, respectively. Cougars selected for mule deer on an annual basis (αmd = 0.63 vs. αwt = 0.37; P = 0.066). We also detected strong seasonal selection for mule deer with cougars killing more mule deer in summer (αmd = 0.64) but not in winter (αmd = 0.53). Cougars showed no seasonal selection for white-tailed deer despite their higher relative abundance. The mean annual kill interval of 6.68 days between kills varied little by season (winter = 7.0 days/kill, summer = 6.6 days/kill; P = 0.78) or prey species (white-tailed deer = 7.0 days/kill, mule deer = 6.1 days/kill; P = 0.58). Kill locations for both prey species occurred at higher elevations during summer months (summer = 1,090 m, winter = 908 m; P = 0.066). We suspect that cougars are primarily subsisting on abundant white-tailed deer during winter but following these deer to higher elevations as they migrate to their summer ranges, resulting in a greater spatial overlap between cougars and mule deer and disproportionate predation on mule deer.
Understanding interactions among bobcats (Lynx rufus) may lend insight into less understood life history traits of the bobcat and improve management of the species. Moreover, data from manipulative experiments pertaining to bobcat ecology are largely absent from the scientific literature. Therefore, we investigated bobcat spatial organization and habitat use after an experimental population reduction on an 11,735-ha study site in southwestern Georgia, USA. In response to an approximate 50% population reduction, male bobcats shifted their space use (26.4 ± 1.7% more shift relative to baseline) more (F1,3 = 138.08, P = 0.001) than males where no bobcat removal occurred (28.1 ± 5.5% less shift relative to baseline). Dispersion of radio locations for all female bobcats increased following the population reduction; however, females that were exposed to the removal of a potentially interacting male remained more (F1,14 = 6.78, P = 0.021) static (increase in dispersion = 7.8 ± 7.3%) than females that were not exposed to removed males (increase in dispersion 41.2 ± 11.1%). Male bobcats likely shifted their central tendency to increase breeding opportunities, whereas the difference in dispersion of female radio locations may be the result of decreased intraspecific competition. Alternatively, reduced dispersion of females following harvest of neighboring males may increase the likelihood that remaining males will interact with females for breeding purposes. Neither habitat use nor habitat selection differed as a function of removal, suggesting that density-dependent habitat selection was not occurring on our study site. Although it is generally accepted that male bobcats use space to increase breeding opportunities, our study suggests that male bobcats may also influence space use of females, but in counterintuitive ways. Because bobcat movements are altered by harvest of neighbors, we suggest that inferring habitat quality for bobcats based on their space use patterns should be avoided unless researchers incorporate knowledge of both short- and long-term population perturbations.
Southern British Columbia, Canada, is the northwestern range limit of the American badger (Taxidea taxus) and supports a nationally endangered subspecies. We initially investigated space-use, diet, and demography in southeastern British Columbia to characterize range-limit ecology. Resident badgers in the northern part (NP) of our study area were extirpated or nearly so during our study (λ = 0.7), whereas the southern (SP) badger population remained viable (λ = 1.2). This apparent difference in viability between NP and SP may have been confounded by timing because research occurred later in SP; litter size, number of Columbian ground squirrels (Spermophilus columbianus) consumed, and home range size were each correlated nearly equally to latitude and date of research, and survivorship was greater later in the study for both the NP and SP. Collectively, these factors indicated temporal, not just spatial, variability. Therefore, we translocated badgers into the NP to 1) determine whether the NP had lost its capacity to support badgers or had merely experienced the variability expected at a range limit and, if the latter, 2) initiate recovery. Translocated animals and their offspring had kit production equivalent to that of SP residents, adult survivorship intermediate between the NP and SP residents, and no confirmed kit mortality, with population growth projected (λ = 1.3). Diet of translocated individuals was similar to that of residents. Home ranges of translocated females were intermediate between the 2 resident groups, and home ranges of translocated males were not different than either resident group. Juvenile dispersal dates and distances were similar to those of residents for each sex. Our results were consistent with the extirpation of the NP being driven by temporally variable conditions or the effect of random events expected at range limits. The extirpation of NP did not appear to have been primarily due to any permanent loss of the NP's capacity to support badgers. At 3.5 years after starting translocations, badgers remained in the NP within an apparently growing population. We found translocation to be a useful diagnostic and conservation tool for badgers at their northern limit. Its utility may extend to countering the fluctuations typical of other rare, range-limit species.
Wind power is one of the fastest growing sectors of the energy industry. Recent studies have reported large numbers of migratory tree-roosting bats being killed at utility-scale wind power facilities, especially in the eastern United States. We used thermal infrared (TIR) cameras to assess the flight behavior of bats at wind turbines because this technology makes it possible to observe the nocturnal behavior of bats and birds independently of supplemental light sources. We conducted this study at the Mountaineer Wind Energy Center in Tucker County, West Virginia, USA, where hundreds of migratory tree bats have been found injured or dead beneath wind turbines. We recorded nightly 9-hour sessions of TIR video of operating turbines from which we assessed altitude, direction, and types of flight maneuvers of bats, birds, and insects. We observed bats actively foraging near operating turbines, rather than simply passing through turbine sites. Our results indicate that bats 1) approached both rotating and nonrotating blades, 2) followed or were trapped in blade-tip vortices, 3) investigated the various parts of the turbine with repeated fly-bys, and 4) were struck directly by rotating blades. Blade rotational speed was a significant negative predictor of collisions with turbine blades, suggesting that bats may be at higher risk of fatality on nights with low wind speeds.
A number of studies on mammalian species that have adapted to urban areas suggest survival may be higher for urban populations than rural populations. We examined differences in fatalities between an urban and rural population of fox squirrels (Sciurus niger). We radiocollared (n = 50 rural, n = 78 urban) fox squirrels during approximately 2 years. We found monthly survival of rural fox squirrels (Ŝ = 0.936) was lower than urban fox squirrels (Ŝ = 0.976) over the same 12-month period. Nonetheless, when comparing a 24-month period of survival data on urban squirrels with an 18-month period on the rural squirrels (periods overlapped for 12 months), survival rates were more similar between urban (Ŝ = 0.938) and rural squirrels (Ŝ = 0.945). Our data suggest that sex and season may influence survival of urban squirrels and not rural squirrels. We also found that cause of fatalities differed between the urban and rural squirrels, with >60% of fatalities on the rural site caused by predation. In contrast, <5% of the fatalities on the urban site were caused by predation and >60% of urban fox squirrel fatalities were caused by motor vehicle collisions. This study illustrates the need to advance our ability to understand, predict, and mitigate effects of urbanization on wildlife resources.
Reintroduction projects often expose animals to a series of acute stressors that may cause chronic stress and lead to the stress response. The stress response results in the release of glucocorticoids that, when excessive, can cause detrimental effects to the animal. Glucocorticoids can be extracted from feces and quantified as an effective method for assessing stress levels. We collected scats from 10 river otters (Lontra canadensis; 3 from MD and 7 from NY, USA) held captive for the Pennsylvania River Otter Reintroduction Project (PRORP). We used these scats to verify the use of the Correlate-EIATM Corticosterone Enzyme Immunoassay Kit (Assay Designs, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI) to evaluate stress levels in otters. We also determined trends in stress levels during the initial 10–12 days otters were in PRORP captivity, and compared glucocorticoid levels for 5 of the New York otters the morning before, the morning of, and the morning after veterinary examinations to determine if associated procedures (e.g., physical and chemical restraint) caused increased stress levels. Glucocorticoid concentrations declined from time 1 to time 2 for the 3 otters from Maryland (an average decline of about 6-fold) and for 5 of 7 otters from New York. Among otters evaluated for stress associated with veterinary examinations, average glucocorticoid concentrations were increased the morning of and the morning after veterinary examinations from the day before the veterinary examinations. We demonstrated that fecal glucocorticoids are an effective method for assessing stress levels in otters and that PRORP's captive management program did not contribute to increasing stress during the 10–12-day evaluation period. Fecal glucocorticoid assays could be used to evaluate stress levels of zoo or permanently captive otters, determine the most effective husbandry techniques for housing otters, and evaluate effects of both management practices and environmental conditions in the wild and in captivity.
In 1994, a 117-ha wetland was designed, constructed, and operated by the Tulare Lake Drainage District (TLDD), California, USA, to provide foraging and nesting habitat for American avocets (Recurvirostra americana) and black-necked stilts (Himantopus mexicanus). The wetland was operated seasonally in compliance with regulatory requirements to compensate for impacts to stilts, avocets, and other wildlife exposed to elevated selenium concentrations, fluctuating water levels resulting in nest flooding, and high nest-predation rates at the TLDD agricultural drainage evaporation basins. Water supply for the wetland was from low-selenium (typically <2 μg/L) saline agricultural drainage water, although the facility also had capability to blend and use freshwater and saline supplies. Coincident with wetland construction, 2 evaporation basins totaling 1,174 ha were physically modified and operated to discourage their use by shorebirds. In the first year of wetland operation (1995), American avocet and black-necked stilt nest construction at the wetland was 17.6 nests/ha. This compares to a preproject (1994) combined density of 1.9 nests/ha at the evaporation basins. From 1995 through 2004, annual nesting attempts by American avocets and black-necked stilts at the wetland averaged 2,896 per year (24.8 nests/ha). American avocets and black-necked stilts represented 91% of the nests observed at the wetland. Over the 10-year monitoring period, nest success at the wetland averaged 82% for American avocets and 75% for black-necked stilts. We estimated nest predation rates at the constructed wetland to be <1%. During the same period, American avocet and black-necked stilt nesting at the evaporation basins declined from 2,266 in 1994 to 9 in 2004. The constructed wetland has proven to be effective in attracting and providing suitable nesting habitat for large numbers of avocets and stilts. Results of this long-term study confirm the validity of management recommendations for American avocets and black-necked stilts and suggest that agricultural drainage can be successfully managed to provide highly productive managed wetlands.
We conducted annual aerial surveys throughout the tidal reach of the Chesapeake Bay, USA, between 1977 and 2001 to estimate population size and reproductive performance for bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). The population increased exponentially from 73 to 601 pairs with an average doubling time of 8.2 years. Annual population increase was highly variable and exhibited no indication of any systematic decline. A total of 7,590 chicks were produced from 5,685 breeding attempts during this period. The population has exhibited tremendous forward momentum such that >50% of young produced over the 25-year period were produced in the last 6 years. Rapid population growth may reflect the combined benefits of eliminating persistent biocides and active territory management. Reproductive rate along with associated success rate and average brood size increased throughout the study period. Average reproductive rate (chicks/breeding attempt) increased from 0.82 during the first 5 years of the survey to 1.50 during the last 5 years. Average success rate increased from 54.4% to >80.0% during the same time periods. The overall population will likely reach saturation within the next decade. The availability of undeveloped waterfront property has become the dominant limiting factor for bald eagles in the Chesapeake Bay. Maintaining the eagle population in the face of a rapidly expanding human population will continue to be the greatest challenge faced by wildlife biologists.
The Beringia region of the Arctic contains 2 colonies of lesser snow geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens) breeding on Wrangel Island, Russia, and Banks Island, Canada, and wintering in North America. The Wrangel Island population is composed of 2 subpopulations from a sympatric breeding colony but separate wintering areas, whereas the Banks Island population shares a sympatric wintering area in California, USA, with one of the Wrangel Island subpopulations. The Wrangel Island colony represents the last major snow goose population in Russia and has fluctuated considerably since 1970, whereas the Banks Island population has more than doubled. The reasons for these changes are unclear, but hypotheses include independent population demographics (survival and recruitment) and immigration and emigration among breeding or wintering populations. These demographic and movement patterns have important ecological and management implications for understanding goose population structure, harvest of admixed populations, and gene flow among populations with separate breeding or wintering areas. From 1993 to 1996, we neckbanded molting birds at their breeding colonies and resighted birds on the wintering grounds. We used multistate mark–recapture models to evaluate apparent survival rates, resighting rates, winter fidelity, and potential exchange among these populations. We also compared the utility of face stain in Wrangel Island breeding geese as a predictor of their wintering area. Our results showed similar apparent survival rates between subpopulations of Wrangel Island snow geese and lower apparent survival, but higher emigration, for the Banks Island birds. Males had lower apparent survival than females, most likely due to differences in neckband loss. Transition between wintering areas was low (<3%), with equal movement between northern and southern wintering areas for Wrangel Island birds and little evidence of exchange between the Banks and northern Wrangel Island populations. Face staining was an unreliable indicator of wintering area. Our findings suggest that northern and southern Wrangel Island subpopulations should be considered a metapopulation in better understanding and managing Pacific Flyway lesser snow geese. Yet the absence of a strong population connection between Banks Island and Wrangel Island geese suggests that these breeding colonies can be managed as separate but overlapping populations. Additionally, winter population fidelity may be more important in lesser snow geese than in other species, and both breeding and wintering areas are important components of population management for sympatric wintering populations.
To predict the distributions of breeding birds in the state of Georgia, USA, we built hierarchical models consisting of 4 levels of nested mapping units of decreasing area: 90,000 ha, 3,600 ha, 144 ha, and 5.76 ha. We used the Partners in Flight database of point counts to generate presence and absence data at locations across the state of Georgia for 9 avian species: Acadian flycatcher (Empidonax virescens), brown-headed nuthatch (Sitta pusilla), Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus), indigo bunting (Passerina cyanea), northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), prairie warbler (Dendroica discolor), yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus), white-eyed vireo (Vireo griseus), and wood thrush (Hylocichla mustelina). At each location, we estimated hierarchical-level-specific habitat measurements using the Georgia GAP Analysis18 class land cover and other Geographic Information System sources. We created candidate, species-specific occupancy models based on previously reported relationships, and fit these using Markov chain Monte Carlo procedures implemented in OpenBugs. We then created a confidence model set for each species based on Akaike's Information Criterion. We found hierarchical habitat relationships for all species. Three-fold cross-validation estimates of model accuracy indicated an average overall correct classification rate of 60.5%. Comparisons with existing Georgia GAP Analysis models indicated that our models were more accurate overall. Our results provide guidance to wildlife scientists and managers seeking predict avian occurrence as a function of local and landscape-level habitat attributes.
Translocations of greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) have been attempted in 7 states and one Canadian province with very little success. To recover a small remnant population and test the efficacy of sage-grouse translocations, we captured and transported 137 adult female sage-grouse from 2 source populations to a release site in Strawberry Valley, Utah, USA, during March–April 2003–2005. The resident population of sage-grouse in Strawberry Valley was approximately 150 breeding birds prior to the release. We radiomarked each female and documented survival, movements, reproductive effort, flocking with resident grouse, and lek attendance. We used Program MARK to calculate annual survival of translocated females in the first year after release, which averaged 0.60 (95% CI = 0.515–0.681). Movements of translocated females were within current and historic sage-grouse habitat in Strawberry Valley, and we detected no grouse outside of the study area. Nesting propensity for first (newly translocated) and second (surviving) year females was 39% and 73%, respectively. Observed nest success of all translocated females during the study was 67%. By the end of their first year in Strawberry Valley, 100% of the living translocated sage-grouse were in flocks with resident sage-grouse. The translocated grouse attended the same lek as the birds with which they were grouped. In 2006, the peak male count for the only remaining active lek in Strawberry Valley was almost 4 times (135 M) the 6-year pretranslocation (1998–2003) average peak attendance of 36 males (range 24–50 M). Translocations can be an effective management tool to increase small populations of greater sage-grouse when conducted during the breeding season and before target populations have been extirpated.
Recent energy development has resulted in rapid and large-scale changes to western shrub-steppe ecosystems without a complete understanding of its potential impacts on wildlife populations. We modeled winter habitat use by female greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) in the Powder River Basin (PRB) of Wyoming and Montana, USA, to 1) identify landscape features that influenced sage-grouse habitat selection, 2) assess the scale at which selection occurred, 3) spatially depict winter habitat quality in a Geographic Information System, and 4) assess the effect of coal-bed natural gas (CBNG) development on winter habitat selection. We developed a model of winter habitat selection based on 435 aerial relocations of 200 radiomarked female sage-grouse obtained during the winters of 2005 and 2006. Percent sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) cover on the landscape was an important predictor of use by sage-grouse in winter. The strength of habitat selection between sage-grouse and sagebrush was strongest at a 4-km2 scale. Sage-grouse avoided coniferous habitats at a 0.65-km2 scale and riparian areas at a 4-km2 scale. A roughness index showed that sage-grouse selected gentle topography in winter. After controlling for vegetation and topography, the addition of a variable that quantified the density of CBNG wells within 4 km2 improved model fit by 6.66 Akaike's Information Criterion points (Akaike wt = 0.965). The odds ratio for each additional well in a 4-km2 area (0.877; 95% CI = 0.834–0.923) indicated that sage-grouse avoid CBNG development in otherwise suitable winter habitat. Sage-grouse were 1.3 times more likely to occupy sagebrush habitats that lacked CBNG wells within a 4-km2 area, compared to those that had the maximum density of 12.3 wells per 4 km2 allowed on federal lands. We validated the model with 74 locations from 74 radiomarked individuals obtained during the winters of 2004 and 2007. This winter habitat model based on vegetation, topography, and CBNG avoidance was highly predictive (validation R2 = 0.984). Our spatially explicit model can be used to identify areas that provide the best remaining habitat for wintering sage-grouse in the PRB to mitigate impacts of energy development.
Many current wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) harvest models assume density-independent population dynamics. We developed an alternative model incorporating both nonlinear density-dependence and stochastic density-independent effects on wild turkey populations. We examined model sensitivity to parameter changes in 5% increments and determined mean spring and fall harvests and their variability in the short term (3 yr) and long term (10 yr) from proportional harvesting under these conditions. In the long term, population growth rates were most sensitive to poult:female ratios and the form of density dependence. The nonlinear density-dependent effect produced a population that maximized yield at 40% carrying capacity. The model indicated that a spring or fall proportional harvest could be maximized for fall harvest rates between 0% and 13% of the population, assuming a 15% spring male harvest and 5% spring illegal female kill. Combined spring and fall harvests could be maximized at a 9% fall harvest, under the same assumptions. Variability in population growth and harvest rates increased uncertainty in spring and fall harvests and the probability of overharvesting annual yield, with growth rate variation having the strongest effect. Model simulations suggested fall harvest rates should be conservative (≤9%) for most management strategies.
The Singing-Ground Survey (SGS) is a primary source of information on population change for American woodcock (Scolopax minor). We analyzed the SGS using a hierarchical log-linear model and compared the estimates of change and annual indices of abundance to a route regression analysis of SGS data. We also grouped SGS routes into Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs) and estimated population change and annual indices using BCRs within states and provinces as strata. Based on the hierarchical model–based estimates, we concluded that woodcock populations were declining in North America between 1968 and 2006 (trend = −0.9%/yr, 95% credible interval: −1.2, −0.5). Singing-Ground Survey results are generally similar between analytical approaches, but the hierarchical model has several important advantages over the route regression. Hierarchical models better accommodate changes in survey efficiency over time and space by treating strata, years, and observers as random effects in the context of a log-linear model, providing trend estimates that are derived directly from the annual indices. We also conducted a hierarchical model analysis of woodcock data from the Christmas Bird Count and the North American Breeding Bird Survey. All surveys showed general consistency in patterns of population change, but the SGS had the shortest credible intervals. We suggest that population management and conservation planning for woodcock involving interpretation of the SGS use estimates provided by the hierarchical model.
The 165-km2 Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA) in west-central California includes 5,400 wind turbines, each rated to generate between 40 kW and 400 kW of electric power, or 580 MW total. Many birds residing or passing through the area are killed by collisions with these wind turbines. We searched for bird carcasses within 50 m of 4,074 wind turbines for periods ranging from 6 months to 4.5 years. Using mortality estimates adjusted for searcher detection and scavenger removal rates, we estimated the annual wind turbine–caused bird fatalities to number 67 (80% CI = 25–109) golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos), 188 (80% CI = 116–259) red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis), 348 (80% CI = −49 to 749) American kestrels (Falco sparverius), 440 (80% CI = −133 to 1,013) burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia hypugaea), 1,127 (80% CI = −23 to 2,277) raptors, and 2,710 (80% CI = −6,100 to 11,520) birds. Adjusted mortality estimates were most sensitive to scavenger removal rate, which relates to the amount of time between fatality searches. New on-site studies of scavenger removal rates might warrant revising mortality estimates for some small-bodied bird species, although we cannot predict how the mortality estimates would change. Given the magnitude of our mortality estimates, regulatory agencies and the public should decide whether to enforce laws intended to protect species killed by APWRA wind turbines, and given the imprecision of our estimates, directed research is needed of sources of error and bias for use in studies of bird collisions wherever wind farms are developed. Precision of mortality estimates could be improved by deploying technology to remotely detect collisions and by making wind turbine power output data available to researchers so that the number of fatalities can be related directly to the actual power output of the wind turbine since the last fatality search.
Social indices were developed to assess breeding productivity of waterfowl based on weekly roadside surveys of social groupings (i.e., pairs, lone M, flocked M). We calculated social indices for mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) populations breeding on 16 study sites in the Canadian parklands from 1993 to 1998 using 7 previously developed indices. We also calculated duckling:pair ratios from our roadside counts, and we obtained independent measures of nesting effort, nesting success, female success, and fledging rate for these same 16 sites from a concurrent telemetry study. Social indices were correlated (r2 = 0.28–0.67) with telemetry-based measures of breeding productivity in 5 of 7 cases, with the strongest relationships deriving from indices that emphasized renesting effort. The 2 ineffective social indices (r2 ≤ 0.13) both measured early onset of nesting activity. Duckling:pair ratios could be calculated more easily from the same survey data and also were correlated (r2 = 0.26–0.48) with measures of breeding productivity. Because surveys measuring late-nesting effort also can enumerate early hatched ducklings, we recommend that waterfowl researchers use duckling:pair ratios rather than social indices because ducking:pair ratios are more easily interpretable. Development of sightability-adjustment factors for pair and duckling surveys could further enhance the utility of duckling:pair ratios as indices of breeding productivity in mallards.
We report the effects of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events on the distribution and abundance of 3 raptor species at continental, regional, and landscape scales. We correlated values from the southern oscillation index (SOI), an index of ENSO phase and strength, with Christmas Bird Count data over a 30-year period. We investigated the relationship between the SOI and winter raptor distributions at 3 spatial scales: continental (central United States), regional (TX, USA), and landscape (3 roadside transects within TX). At the continental scale, ENSO events resulted in regional shifts for American kestrel (Falco sparverius), northern harrier (Circus cyaneus), and red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) winter abundances. As expected, these shifts were northward during El Niño (warm) winters, and southward for red-tailed hawks and northern harriers during La Niña (cold) winters. Within Texas, northern harrier distributions shifted towards arid west Texas during wet El Niño winters but were restricted to mesic coastal Texas during dry La Niña winters. Red-tailed hawk abundance increased in eastern Texas during La Niña winters responding to cooler than normal temperatures throughout the northern Midwest. Data from local roadside transects over a 3-year period encompassing 2 El Niño winters and one La Niña winter supported the abundance patterns revealed by continental and regional data, and added evidence that fluctuations in winter abundances result from demographic pulses as well as spatial shifts for wintering populations. This study underscores the need for long-term monitoring at both local and regional spatial scales in order to detect changes in continental populations. Short-term or local studies would have erroneously assumed local population declines or increases associated with ENSO events, rather than facultative movements or demographic pulses supported by this study.
Despite increased knowledge about environmental toxins and changes in lead use (i.e., the mandated use of nonlead paint, gasoline, and shotgun pellets used for hunting waterfowl on federal lands), lead poisoning continues to occur in terrestrial birds. The degree of exposure and its demographic effect, however, continue to be described, emphasizing the growing concern over lead exposure. We examined 302 blood samples from common ravens (Corvus corax) scavenging on hunter-killed large ungulates and their offal piles to determine if lead rifle-bullet residuum was a point source for lead ingestion in ravens. We took blood samples during a 15-month period spanning 2 hunting seasons. Of the ravens tested during the hunting season, 47% exhibited elevated blood lead levels (≥10 μg/dL) whereas 2% tested during the nonhunting season exhibited elevated levels. Females had significantly higher blood lead levels than did males. Our results confirm that ravens are ingesting lead during the hunting season and are likely exposed to lead from rifle-shot big-game offal piles.
Shorebirds migrating through the Southern Great Plains of North America use saline lakes as stopovers to rest and replenish energy reserves. To understand how availability of invertebrates, salinity, freshwater springs, vegetation, and water influence the value of saline lakes as migration stopovers, we compared lakes used and not used by migrant shorebirds. Shorebirds used lakes that had freshwater springs, mudflats and standing water, sparse vegetation (≤1% cover), low to moderate salinities (𝑥̄ = 30.87 g/L), and mean invertebrate biomass of 0.79 g/m2. Lakes that were not used were generally dry or had hypersaline water (𝑥̄ = 82.56 g/L), lacked flowing springs and vegetation, and had few or no invertebrates (𝑥̄ = 0.007 g/m2). Our results suggest that reduced spring flows and increased salinity negatively affect availability of shorebird habitats and aquatic invertebrates. We recommend preservation of the freshwater springs discharging in the saline lakes. Because the springs are discharged from the Ogallala aquifer, which is recharged through the playa wetlands, the entire complex of wetlands in the Great Plains and the Ogallala aquifer should be managed as an integral system.
As gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) increasingly become threatened throughout their range in Florida, USA, the need for management and conservation will intensify. Here we evaluate the forensic applicability of genetic assignment tests based on microsatellite genotypic data to 1) accurately assign individuals in our genetic database to the sample location or population of origin and 2) determine the origin of 6 confiscated tortoises. Overall, we could correctly assign 90% of the individuals in the database to their population of origin, but we were unable to determine the source of the confiscated tortoises. However, these individuals are unlikely to have come from any of our sampled sites and all 6 may have come from the same population. This approach can be used by law enforcement personnel to identify the origin of confiscated tortoises as well as by developers and wildlife managers to determine the genetic appropriateness of potential recipient populations when it is necessary to relocate individuals.
Understanding the movement of animals is critical to many aspects of conservation such as spread of emerging disease, proliferation of invasive species, changes in land-use patterns, and responses to global climate change. Movement processes are especially important for amphibian management and conservation as species declines and extinctions worldwide become ever more apparent. To better integrate behavioral and ecological data on amphibian movements with our use of spatially explicit demographic models and guide effective conservation solutions, I present 1) a synopsis of the literature regarding behavior, ecology, and evolution of movement in pond-breeding amphibians possessing biphasic life cycles to distinguish between migration and dispersal processes, 2) a working hypothesis of juvenile-based dispersal, and 3) a discussion of conservation issues that follow from distinguishing the spatial and temporal movements of amphibians at different scales. I define amphibian migration as intrapopulational, round-trip movements toward and away from aquatic breeding sites. Population-level management, in general, can be focused on spatial scales of <1.0 km with attention focused on adult population and juveniles that remain near the natal wetland. I define amphibian dispersal as interpopulational, unidirectional movements from natal sites to other breeding sites. Metapopulation- or landscape-level management can be focused on movements among populations at spatial scales >1.0–10.0 km and on importance of terrestrial connectivity. The ultimate goal of conservation for amphibians should be long-term regional persistence by addressing management issues at both local and metapopulation scales.
Resource selection is a multi-staged process of behavioral responses to various resource cues or stimuli. Previous research suggests some aspects of resource selection may be inherent (i.e., genetic predisposition) or based on early experience and that individuals respond to certain resource cues but not to others. In other words, resource selection may be based on a template that specifies which cues to use in the resource-selection process and the appropriate response to those cues. We used resource utilization functions (RUFs) to examine the resource-selection template of translocated three-toed box turtles (Terrapene carolina triunguis; hereafter turtles) and made comparisons to resident turtles. Translocated turtles, previously residents of a predominantly forested landscape with low edge-density, used forest openings, forest edges, and southwest-facing slopes before and after translocation to a fragmented site containing resident turtles. In contrast, resident turtles used forested areas and northeast-facing slopes within a predominantly open landscape with high edge-density. Our comparison of resource selection by translocated and resident turtles revealed population-specific resource selection and consistency in selection following translocation, which reinforces the idea of a resource-selection template and suggests that in the short-term box turtles may not adapt their predisposed behavior to local conditions. Thus, translocated animals may evaluate and respond to resource cues as if they were at the original site. Lack of site fidelity may result from individuals seeking additional resources to match their resource-selection template. Successful translocation of turtles may require an assessment of resource selection prior to translocation and development of management strategies that mitigate turtle response to translocation.
The Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) causes large loss of free-ranging domestic sheep in Norway. We tested whether the observed higher kill rates by male lynx than female lynx were related to an association between the availability of the main natural prey, as measured by roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) habitat suitability, presence of sheep, and habitat selection of male and female lynx. We found that lynx selected areas with high roe deer suitability during summer and winter. Moreover, during summer, compared to male lynx, females had greater selection for roe deer areas and a stronger avoidance for sheep grazing areas, which suggests that previously observed differences in kill rates between male and female lynx can be attributed to sex-specific habitat use during summer. The connection between lynx habitat use and roe deer also was reflected in a positive relationship between the roe deer suitability of a sheep grazing area and the total loss of lambs, which suggests that livestock, rather than being actively selected, are mainly killed by lynx incidentally when encountered during other lynx activities (e.g., searching for natural prey species). Therefore, any management practice that separates lynx and sheep, such as concentrating livestock into small patches or less preferred habitats, may reduce depredation.
As wolves (Canis lupus) recover in Poland, their depredation on domestic animals is increasing, as have conflicts between wolves and farmers. From 1998 to 2004, I investigated spatial and temporal patterns of 591 verified incidents of wolf depredation in the eastern part of the Polish Carpathian Mountains. The wolf population I surveyed covered an estimated range of 4,993 km2. Depredation occurred over 1,595 km2 of that area. Sheep accounted for 84.8% of domestic animals killed by wolves. Depredation on sheep and number of sheep farms attacked by wolves increased between 1998 and 2004 (r2 = 0.61, P = 0.04 and r2 = 0.89, P = 0.02, respectively). The number of wolf attacks on sheep farms in a given year were negatively correlated to red deer (Cervus elaphus) population numbers (R2 = 0.69, P = 0.02). The amount of depredation caused by each of the 4 monitored packs was best explained by farm density in their territories (R2 = 0.59, P = 0.004). Number of attacks recorded on farms was positively correlated to distance from the farm to the pack's den and rendezvous sites (R2 = 0.16, P = 0.04). Of depredation recorded in the 4 pack's territories I surveyed, 77% occurred in 4 farms with no or inadequate protection. I concluded that wolf depredation in the studied area is opportunistic. Wolf predation intensity is a function of decreasing abundance of red deer, the density of sheep farms, and proximity of farms to the summer activity centers of wolf packs, and it is facilitated by poor husbandry practices. These results can aid in preventing wolf depredation and provide a foundation for a wolf management plan.
No consensus currently exists for the methods of estimation of home range size or for reporting home-range analysis results. Studies currently employ a variety of disparate methods or provide inadequate information for reproducing their analyses. We reviewed 161 home range studies published in 2004, 2005, and 2006 to assess what methods are currently employed and how results are reported. We found that home range reporting was generally inadequate for reproducing studies; that the methods employed varied considerably; that home range estimates were often reported and analyzed using inappropriate methods; and that many comparisons were made between studies that may produce spurious results. We urge for minimum editorial standards for reporting home range studies and we urge researchers to follow a unified methodology for estimating animal home ranges. We supply recommendations for such reporting and methodology. These recommendations will increase the reproducibility of studies and allow for more robust comparisons between studies.
Noninvasive DNA sampling allows studies of natural populations without disturbing the target animals. Unfortunately, high genotyping error rates often make noninvasive studies difficult. We report low error rates (0.0–7.5%/locus) when genotyping 18 microsatellite loci in only 4 multiplex polymerase chain reaction amplifications using fecal DNA from bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis). The average locus-specific error rates varied significantly between the 2 populations (0.13% vs. 1.6%; P < 0.001), as did multi-locus genotype error rates (2.3% vs. 14.1%; P < 0.007). This illustrates the importance of quantifying error rates in each study population (and for each season and sample preservation method) before initiating a noninvasive study. Our error rates are among the lowest reported for fecal samples collected noninvasively in the field. This and other recent studies suggest that noninvasive fecal samples can be used in species with pellet-form feces for nearly any study (e.g., of population structure, gene flow, dispersal, parentage, and even genome-wide studies to detect local adaptation) that previously required high-quality blood or tissue samples.
Few data exist regarding suitable feral swine (Sus scrofa) attractants in the United States. We compared species-specific visitation and contact rates of mammals to 11 candidate feral swine attractants at scent stations using motion-sensing digital photography to identify promising attractants. We found feral swine had greater visitation rates to apple and strawberry stations than to control stations. We recommend managers consider using strawberry attractants for feral swine-specific applications. If, however, a general feral swine attractant is needed, then apple, berry, or caramel attractants may perform well.
The helicopter and net gun is a technique used to capture white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and is useful in a variety of habitat types and at various population densities with the ability to be highly selective. During capture, deer may sustain injuries or even die as a result of capture and handling, and may also be prone to capture myopathy. Therefore, our objectives were to determine 1) type and frequency of injuries sustained during the helicopter and net-gun capture, and 2) the effects of capture on survival of radiocollared deer. We captured 3,350 white-tailed deer from 1998 to 2005 using a net gun fired from a helicopter on 5 southern Texas, USA, ranches. Additionally, we captured 51 yearling males and 49 mature (≥4 yr of age) males and fitted them with radiocollars to monitor their survival. We recorded injuries and mortalities during capture and ranked the seriousness of injuries on a scale from 0 to 4. We recorded 281 injuries (8.4%) and as a result of capture, at least 206 deer had broken antlers (6.1%), 55 were injured (1.6%), and 20 were direct mortalities (0.6%). The most common antler injury was broken antler tines and the most common body injury was broken legs. Postcapture mortality rates were low (1%) for this capture method. Based on capture-related injuries, mortalities, and postcapture survival, we found the helicopter and net gun to be a safe capture technique compared to other capture techniques, particularly when conditions are favorable.
Capturing wild animals for research or conservation purposes may cause some adverse effects, which is only acceptable if these are outweighed by conservation benefits. We used information from 3 on-going telemetry studies on the endangered little bustard (Tetrax tetrax) in Western Europe to evaluate the risk factors associated with capture and handling. Of 151 telemetered birds, 23 (15.2%) exhibited impaired mobility and coordination after release, probably related to the occurrence of capture myopathy. Among the 23 impaired birds, 10 (43.5%) died before recovering normal mobility (6.6% of all birds captured). Logistic regression analyses identified longer handling time, longer restraint time, use of cannon nets, and capture of juveniles as inducing factors for these disorders. We conclude that little bustard is fairly susceptible to suffering ataxia and paresia after release as a result of restraint associated with capture and manipulation. Researchers can reduce this risk by keeping handling and restraint time below 10–20 minutes, particularly when using cannon nets or when capturing juveniles.
The Delmarva fox squirrel (Sciurus niger cinereus) has been listed as endangered by the United States Department of Interior since 1967. A high-priority task for the recovery of this taxon is to determine its current geographic distribution. Toward this end, we have identified a microsatellite locus that unambiguously differentiates Delmarva fox squirrels from eastern gray squirrels (S. carolinensis), which frequently co-occur with Delmarva fox squirrels. Analysis of this marker in noninvasively collected hair samples will allow unequivocal identification of localities occupied by Delmarva fox squirrels with a minimum investment of funds, time, and effort because handling individuals will be unnecessary. This protocol will expedite site review in connection with the Endangered Species Act consultation process.
We developed a snare for collection of black bear (Ursus americanus) hair that obtained a unique hair sample at each snare site, improved the quantity of collected hair compared to barbed-wire corrals, and was easy to deploy over a wide range of topographical features and habitat conditions. This device allowed us to implement intensive sampling methodology needed in mark–recapture experiments with minimal effort. By improving the quantity of hair collected, we also lowered the potential for bear identification errors at the lab. During 2003–2004, bears in 2 study areas triggered snares 1,104 times, which resulted in the collection of 981 hair samples. Of the samples we collected, 79% (775) produced valid genetic data. In 2003, 454 samples identified 79 genetically distinct individuals, and 321 samples identified 86 genetically distinct individuals in 2004. Analysis of capture–recapture data indicated that capture probabilities were affected by heterogeneity among individuals and behavioral responses, but showed little evidence of time effects. Consequently, we used the Pollock and Otto (1983) estimator for model Mbh to estimate abundance with reasonably good precision (CV: 12–14%). Density on the Steamboat and Toketee, Oregon, USA, study areas over the 2-year period averaged 19 bears/100 km2 and 22 bears/100 km2, respectively. Average capture and recapture probabilities over the 2 years of the study were 30% and 63%, respectively, indicating a trap-prone behavioral response. Knowledge of bear densities on the Steamboat and Toketee study areas will enable managers to set hunting quotas, advise land management agencies on habitat issues, and create a baseline database to assist in the long-term monitoring of bear trends in a changing landscape.
Wildlife biologists use knowledge about wildlife–habitat relationships to create habitat models to predict species occurrence across a landscape. Researchers attribute limitations in predictive ability of a habitat model to data deficiencies, missing parameters, error introduced by specifications of the statistical model, and natural variation. Few wildlife biologists, however, have incorporated intra- and interspecific interactions (e.g., conspecific attraction, competition, predator–prey relationships) to increase predictive accuracy of habitat models. Based on our literature review and preliminary data analysis, conspecific attraction can be a primary factor influencing habitat selection in wildlife. Conspecific attraction can lead to clustered distributions of wildlife within available habitat, reducing the predictive ability of habitat models based on vegetative and geographic parameters alone. We suggest wildlife biologists consider incorporating a parameter in habitat models for the clustered distribution of individuals within available habitat and investigate the mechanisms leading to clustered distributions of species, especially conspecific attraction.