Year of Publication

2010

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type

Thesis

College

Agriculture

Department

Forestry

First Advisor

Dr. John J. Cox

Second Advisor

Dr. Songlin Fei

Abstract

After nearly a century of absence, the black bear (Ursus americanus) reappeared in Kentucky during the late 20th century and has since increased in number. Recolonization of bears in the southeastern portion of the state was thought to have been caused by emigration of bears from adjacent states into the Commonwealth, while in the south-central area, bears originated, or natural recolonization may have been supplemented by the translocation of 14 individuals into the Big South Fork National River Recreation Area. To investigate the recolonization patterns of bears in Kentucky, I used 20 microsatellite loci to determine the genetic diversity and subpopulation structure of bears in the state, and quantified the relative influence of source populations of bears from neighboring states. Two genetically distinct populations of black bears were identified; Big South Fork and Cumberland Plateau. These populations were moderately diverged from each other and had levels of heterozygosity similar to other stable bear populations in North America. The Cumberland Plateau bear population originated from a combination of bears from both West Virginia and Virginia. In contrast, the Big South Fork population appeared to be almost entirely comprised of individuals from the translocated founders from Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

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