Publication Date

8-1-2002

Degree Program

Department of Biology

Degree Type

Master of Science

Abstract

Black bears (Ursus americanus) occur sporadically in eastern Kentucky, and there is some evidence that a breeding population exists. In order to establish management practices to enhance the black bear population in Kentucky, information about this population is needed. However, until recently, no population size estimate has been available. Gathering information on black bears is difficult because black bears are elusive animals. The development of new molecular methods has made it easier to track and gather information on black bear populations, including estimates of population size. Molecular markers are particularly useful in that they do not require physical contact with the animal. Both scat and hair can be collected and utilized to identify individuals. Approximately 100 hair traps were placed throughout the eastern wildlife management regions and were monitored for a six-month period at two-week intervals by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. A total of 108 hair and scat samples were obtained. Eight microsatellite markers and one SRY marker were used to genotype and determine the sex of individual black bears. A minimum of thirty- nine different individuals (26 males and 13 females) were identified during the study period. Most of the individuals were identified during June and July and were collected from Pine Mountain and Kingdom Come areas. Capture histories of these individuals were then analyzed to estimate population numbers for the entire study area and Pine Mt/Kingdom Come using models from the computer program CAPTURE, Schnabel-Schumacher method, and Jolly-Seber method. The estimates for the entire study area were not very accurate, because the hair traps did not cover the entire study area. The number of bears between the clusters of hair traps could not be determined. The estimates for Pine Mountain and Kingdom Come were the more accurate, because the traps covered most of this area. For CAPTURE program, the estimates for Pine Mt/Kingdom Come ranged from 23 using hair and scat data combined to 58 using hair data only. Both estimates used M(tb) model, but estimates based on scat and hair data combined used Burnham estimator while estimates based on hair only used Jackknife estimator. Population estimates using Jolly-Seber method were only done using hair and scat combined for Pine Mt/Kingdom Come and ranged from 11 to 21. Using Arlequin 2.0, the average genetic diversity of the population was found to be approximately 0.75 (+/-0.409), which is similar to the diversity that is found from other black bear populations. The relatedness between the individuals was also tested using Kinship 1.2. Only seven individuals were found to be unrelated to any other individuals. There seem to a strong genetic relatedness between most of the individuals identified in the study area.

Disciplines

Animal Sciences | Geography | Medical Sciences