Predicting Grizzly Bear Density in Western North America

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Faculty/Staff
Final version published as: 

Mowat G, Heard DC, Schwarz CJ (2013) Predicting Grizzly Bear Density in Western North America. PLoS ONE 8(12): e82757. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0082757

Date created: 
2013
Abstract: 

Conservation of grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) is often controversial and the disagreement often is focused on the estimates of density used to calculate allowable kill. Many recent estimates of grizzly bear density are now available but field-based estimates will never be available for more than a small portion of hunted populations. Current methods of predicting density in areas of management interest are subjective and untested. Objective methods have been proposed, but these statistical models are so dependent on results from individual study areas that the models do not generalize well. We built regression models to relate grizzly bear density to ultimate measures of ecosystem productivity and mortality for interior and coastal ecosystems in North America. We used 90 measures of grizzly bear density in interior ecosystems, of which 14 were currently known to be unoccupied by grizzly bears. In coastal areas, we used 17 measures of density including 2 unoccupied areas. Our best model for coastal areas included a negative relationship with tree cover and positive relationships with the proportion of salmon in the diet and topographic ruggedness, which was correlated with precipitation. Our best interior model included 3 variables that indexed terrestrial productivity, 1 describing vegetation cover, 2 indices of human use of the landscape and, an index of topographic ruggedness. We used our models to predict current population sizes across Canada and present these as alternatives to current population estimates. Our models predict fewer grizzly bears in British Columbia but more bears in Canada than in the latest status review. These predictions can be used to assess population status, set limits for total human-caused mortality, and for conservation planning, but because our predictions are static, they cannot be used to assess population trend.

Language: 
English
Document type: 
Article
File(s): 
Sponsor(s): 
BC Ministry of Environment
British Columbia Grizzly Bear Trust Fund
Statistics: