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1 September 2011 Variation in Life History and Demography of the American Black Bear
Julie A. Beston
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Variation in life history and demography across a species' range informs researchers about regional adaptations and affects whether managers can borrow information from other populations in decision-making. The American black bear (Ursus americanus) is a long-lived game species whose continued persistence depends on management of harvest and removal of habituated bears that come into conflict with humans. Understanding the demography of black bears guides efforts at management and conservation, yet detailed knowledge of many populations is typically lacking. I performed a hierarchical Bayesian meta-analysis of black bear demographic studies across the geographic range of the species to explore how vital rates vary across the range, what information they give us about population growth, and whether managers can justify borrowing information from other studies to inform management decisions. Cub, yearling, and adult survival and fecundity varied between eastern and western North America, whereas subadult survival did not show geographic structuring. Adult survival and fecundity appeared to trade off, with higher survival in the western portions of bears' range and higher fecundity in the east. Although adult survival had the highest elasticity, differences in reproduction drove differences in population growth rate. Mean population growth rate was higher in the east (0.99; 95% credible interval [CrI]: 0.96, 1.03) than the west (0.97; 95%CrI: 0.93, 1.01). Despite declining trends in the west, 34% of the distribution of population growth rate was >1, compared to 55% in the east. Further work needs to be done to address the cause of the apparent trade-off between adult survival and fecundity and explore how the estimated growth rates are likely to affect population status of black bears. Because population growth rates are close to 1 and small deviations could impact whether a population is considered increasing or decreasing, managers need to employ caution in borrowing vital rates from other populations.

© 2011 The Wildlife Society.
Julie A. Beston "Variation in Life History and Demography of the American Black Bear," Journal of Wildlife Management 75(7), 1588-1596, (1 September 2011).
Received: 4 June 2010; Accepted: 21 February 2011; Published: 1 September 2011

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Bayesian meta-analysis
black bear
life history
Ursus americanus
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