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Evaluation of connectivity among black bear populations in Georgia

April 8, 2021

Habitat fragmentation and loss contribute to isolation of wildlife populations and increased extinction risks for various species, including many large carnivores. We studied a small and isolated population of American black bears (Ursus americanus) that is of conservation concern in central Georgia, USA (i.e., central Georgia bear population [CGBP]). Our goal was to evaluate the potential for demographic and genetic interchange from neighboring bear populations to the CGBP. To evaluate resource selection and movement potential, we used 35,487 global positioning system locations collected every 20 minutes from 2012 to 2014 from 33 male bears in the CGBP. We then developed a step selection function model based on conditional logistic regression. Male bears chose steps that avoided crops, roads, and human developments and were closer to forests and woody wetlands than expected based on availability. We used a geographic information system to simulate 300 bear movement paths from nearby bear populations in northern Florida, northern Georgia, and southern Georgia to estimate the potential for immigration to the CGBP. Only 4 simulated movement paths from the nearby populations intersected the CGBP. The creation of a hypothetical 1-km-wide corridor between the southern Georgia population and the CGBP produced only minor improvements in interchange. Our findings suggest that demographic connectivity between the CGBP and surrounding bear populations may be limited, and coupled with previous works showing genetic isolation in the CGBP, that creation of corridors may have only marginal effects on restoring gene flow, at least in the near term. Management actions such as translocation and the establishment of stepping stone populations may be needed to increase the genetic diversity and demographic stability of bears in the CGBP. © 2021 The Wildlife Society.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2021
Title Evaluation of connectivity among black bear populations in Georgia
DOI 10.1002/jwmg.22041
Authors Michael J. Hooker, Joseph D. Clark, Bobby T Bond, Michael J Chamberlain
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Wildlife Management
Index ID 70225754
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center

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