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Efficacy of GPS cluster analysis for predicting carnivory sites of a wide-ranging omnivore: the American black bear

October 1, 2016

The capacity to describe and quantify predation by large carnivores expanded considerably with the advent of GPS technology. Analyzing clusters of GPS locations formed by carnivores facilitates the detection of predation events by identifying characteristics which distinguish predation sites. We present a performance assessment of GPS cluster analysis as applied to the predation and scavenging of an omnivore, the American black bear (Ursus americanus), on ungulate prey and carrion. Through field investigations of 6854 GPS locations from 24 individual bears, we identified 54 sites where black bears formed a cluster of locations while predating or scavenging elk (Cervus elaphus), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), or cattle (Bos spp.). We developed models for three data sets to predict whether a GPS cluster was formed at a carnivory site vs. a non-carnivory site (e.g., bed sites or non-ungulate foraging sites). Two full-season data sets contained GPS locations logged at either 3-h or 30-min intervals from April to November, and a third data set contained 30-min interval data from April through July corresponding to the calving period for elk. Longer fix intervals resulted in the detection of fewer carnivory sites. Clusters were more likely to be carnivory sites if they occurred in open or edge habitats, if they occurred in the early season, if the mean distance between all pairs of GPS locations within the cluster was less, and if the cluster endured for a longer period of time. Clusters were less likely to be carnivory sites if they were initiated in the morning or night compared to the day. The top models for each data set performed well and successfully predicted 71–96% of field-verified carnivory events, 55–75% of non–carnivory events, and 58–76% of clusters overall. Refinement of this method will benefit from further application across species and ecological systems.

Publication Year 2016
Title Efficacy of GPS cluster analysis for predicting carnivory sites of a wide-ranging omnivore: the American black bear
DOI 10.1002/ecs2.1513
Authors Sarah R. Kindschuh, James W. Cain III, David Daniel, Mark A. Peyton
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecosphere
Index ID 70191981
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Seattle