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Bear reintroduction: Lessons and challenges

December 31, 2001

Reintroduction is defined as an attempt to establish a species in an area that was once part of its historical range, but from which it has been extirpated or become extinct. Historically, one of the most successful programs was the reintroduction of 254 American black bears (Ursus americanus) from Minnesota to the Interior Highlands of Arkansas in the 1960s; that population has grown to >2,500 today. More recent efforts have involved fewer but better monitored animals and have sometimes employed techniques to improve site fidelity and survival. In Pennsylvania, for example, pregnant female American black bears were successfully translocated from winter dens, the premise being that the adult females would be less likely to return because of the presence of young cubs. That winter-release technique was compared to summer trapping and release in Tennessee; winter releases resulted in greater survival and reduced post-release movements. Homing has not been a problem for small numbers of brown bears (Ursus arctos) reintroduced to the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem in Montana and Idaho and to the mountains of Austria and France. Reintroduction success appears to be correlated with translocation distance and is greater for subadults and females. As with any small population, reintroduced bear populations are susceptible to environmental variation and stochastic demographic and genetic processes. Although managers have focused on these biological barriers, sociopolitical impediments to bear reintroduction are more difficult to overcome. Poor public acceptance and understanding of bears are the main reasons some reintroduction programs have been derailed. Consequently, the public should be involved in the reintroduction process from the outset; overcoming negative public perceptions about bear reintroduction will be our greatest challenge.

Publication Year 2002
Title Bear reintroduction: Lessons and challenges
Authors Joseph D. Clark, Djuro Huber, Christopher Servheen
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ursus
Index ID 70170387
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse