Year of Publication

2011

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type

Master's Thesis

College

Agriculture

Department

Forestry

First Advisor

Dr. John J. Cox

Second Advisor

Dr. Songlin Fei

Abstract

Large carnivores have been subjected to overexploitation and extensive habitat loss for centuries. Reintroduction has become an increasingly used tool for recovering and reestablishing large carnivore populations; however, most reintroductions have either failed or resulted in small populations that are vulnerable to deleterious demographic, environmental, and genetic effects that can lead to population loss or extinction. Longterm monitoring of small, reintroduced populations is critical to population persistence and viability. To evaluate long-term reintroduction success and current status of a recently reintroduced, small black bear (Ursus americanus) population in the Big South Fork area of Kentucky, I used non-invasive hair sampling in a systematic, closedpopulation capture-mark-recapture study design. I used ≥ 20 microsatellite loci to identify individual bear, quantify genetic diversity, investigate genetic relatedness, estimate population abundance and density, and investigate patterns of range expansion. The Big South Fork population is comprised of closely-related individuals, is small (N = 40; 95% CI: 30-113), of low density (0.03 bear/km2), has experienced minimal range expansion, and exhibits decreased genetic diversity (HE = 0.698). Because of prolonged isolation from nearby subpopulations, the Big South Fork population remains vulnerable and requires immediate and continued monitoring.

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