Female American black bears do not alter space use or movements to reduce infanticide risk.
ABSTRACT: Infanticide occurs in a variety of animal species and infanticide risk has large implications for the evolution of behavior. Further, the sex hypothesis of sexual segregation predicts that for species in which infanticide occurs, females with dependent young will avoid males to reduce risk of sexually-selected infanticide. Infanticide risk-avoidance behavior has been studied primarily in social species, but also occurs in some solitary species. We used generalized linear mixed models to determine if space use and movements of female American black bears (Ursus americanus) during the breeding season were consistent with the sex hypothesis of sexual segregation in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, USA. Space use and movements of female black bears (n = 16) were not consistent with avoidance behavior to reduce sexually-selected infanticide risk. Females with cubs occupied core areas (mean = 4.64 km2, standard error [SE] = 1.28) and home ranges (mean = 19.46 km2, SE = 5.10) of similar size to females without cubs (core area [mean = 4.11 km2, SE = 0.59]; home range [mean = 16.07 km2, SE = 2.26]), and those core areas and home ranges were not in areas with lesser relative probability of male use. Additionally, females with cubs did not reduce movements during times of day when male movements were greatest. As female bears do avoid potentially infanticidal males in populations with greater levels of infanticide, female black bears may exhibit variation in avoidance behavior based on the occurrence of infanticide.
Project description:Spatiotemporal segregation is often explained by the risk for offspring predation or by differences in physiology, predation risk vulnerability or competitive abilities related to size dimorphism. Most large carnivores are size dimorphic and offspring predation is often intraspecific and related to nonparental infanticide (NPI). NPI can be a foraging strategy, a strategy to reduce competition, or a male reproductive strategy. Spatiotemporal segregation is widespread among large carnivores, but its nature remains poorly understood. We evaluated three hypotheses to explain spatiotemporal segregation in the brown bear, a size-dimorphic large carnivore in which NPI is common; the 'NPI - foraging/competition hypothesis', i.e. NPI as a foraging strategy or a strategy to reduce competition, the 'NPI - sexual selection hypothesis', i.e. infanticide as a male reproductive strategy and the 'body size hypothesis', i.e. body-size-related differences in physiology, predation risk vulnerability or competitive ability causes spatiotemporal segregation. To test these hypotheses, we quantified spatiotemporal segregation among adult males, lone adult females and females with cubs-of-the-year, based on GPS-relocation data (2006-2010) and resource selection functions in a Scandinavian population. We found that spatiotemporal segregation was strongest between females with cubs-of-the-year and adult males during the mating season. During the mating season, females with cubs-of-the-year selected their resources, in contrast to adult males, in less rugged landscapes in relative close proximity to certain human-related variables, and in more open habitat types. After the mating season, females with cubs-of-the-year markedly shifted their resource selection towards a pattern more similar to that of their conspecifics. No strong spatiotemporal segregation was apparent between females with cubs-of-the-year and conspecifics during the mating and the postmating season. The 'NPI - sexual selection hypothesis' best explained spatiotemporal segregation in our study system. We suggest that females with cubs-of-the-year alter their resource selection to avoid infanticidal males. In species exhibiting NPI as a male reproductive strategy, female avoidance of infanticidal males is probably more common than observed or reported, and may come with a fitness cost if females trade safety for optimal resources.
Project description:Behavioural strategies to reduce predation risk can incur costs, which are often referred to as risk effects. A common strategy to avoid predation is spatio-temporal avoidance of predators, in which prey typically trade optimal resources for safety. Analogous with predator-prey theory, risk effects should also arise in species with sexually selected infanticide (SSI), in which females with dependent offspring avoid infanticidal males. SSI can be common in brown bear (Ursus arctos) populations and explains spatio-temporal segregation among reproductive classes. Here, we show that in a population with SSI, females with cubs-of-the-year had lower quality diets than conspecifics during the SSI high-risk period, the mating season. After the mating season, their diets were of similar quality to diets of their conspecifics. Our results suggest a nutritive risk effect of SSI, in which females with cubs-of-the-year alter their resource selection and trade optimal resources for offspring safety. Such risk effects can add to female costs of reproduction and may be widespread among species with SSI.
Project description:Increasing global demands have resulted in widespread proliferation of resource extraction. Scientists are challenged to develop environmental mitigation strategies that meet societal expectations of resource supply, while achieving minimal disruption to sensitive "wilderness" species. We used GPS collar data from a 9-year study on grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) (n?=?18) in Alberta, Canada to assess movements and associated space use during versus after mining. Grizzly bear home range overlap with mined areas was lower during active mining except for females with cubs, that also had shortest movements on active mines. However, both females with cubs and males made shorter steps when on/close to mines following mine closure and reclamation. Our results show differences in bear movement and space-use strategies, with individuals from a key population segment (females with cubs) appearing most adaptable to mining disturbance. Preserving patches of original habitat, reclaiming the landscape and minimizing the risk of direct human-induced mortality during and after development can help conserve bears and other wildlife on industrially modified landscapes.
Project description:Studying diet is fundamental to animal ecology and scat analysis, a widespread approach, is considered a reliable dietary proxy. Nonetheless, this method has weaknesses such as non-random sampling of habitats and individuals, inaccurate evaluation of excretion date, and lack of assessment of inter-individual dietary variability. We coupled GPS telemetry and scat analyses of black bears Ursus americanus Pallas to relate diet to individual characteristics and habitat use patterns while foraging. We captured 20 black bears (6 males and 14 females) and fitted them with GPS/Argos collars. We then surveyed GPS locations shortly after individual bear visits and collected 139 feces in 71 different locations. Fecal content (relative dry matter biomass of ingested items) was subsequently linked to individual characteristics (sex, age, reproductive status) and to habitats visited during foraging bouts using Brownian bridges based on GPS locations prior to feces excretion. At the population level, diet composition was similar to what was previously described in studies on black bears. However, our individual-based method allowed us to highlight different intra-population patterns, showing that sex and female reproductive status had significant influence on individual diet. For example, in the same habitats, females with cubs did not use the same food sources as lone bears. Linking fecal content (i.e., food sources) to habitat previously visited by different individuals, we demonstrated a potential differential use of similar habitats dependent on individual characteristics. Females with cubs-of-the-year tended to use old forest clearcuts (6-20 years old) to feed on bunchberry, whereas females with yearling foraged for blueberry and lone bears for ants. Coupling GPS telemetry and scat analyses allows for efficient detection of inter-individual or inter-group variations in foraging strategies and of linkages between previous habitat use and food consumption, even for cryptic species. This approach could have interesting ecological implications, such as supporting the identification of habitats types abundant in important food sources for endangered species targeted by conservation measures or for management actions for depredating animals.
Project description:Understanding the factors that affect dispersal is a fundamental question in ecology and conservation biology, particularly as populations are faced with increasing anthropogenic impacts. Here we collected georeferenced genetic samples (n?=?2,540) from three generations of black bears (Ursus americanus) harvested in a large (47,739 km2), geographically isolated population and used parentage analysis to identify mother-offspring dyads (n?=?337). We quantified the effects of sex, age, habitat type and suitability, and local harvest density at the natal and settlement sites on the probability of natal dispersal, and on dispersal distances. Dispersal was male-biased (76% of males dispersed) but a small proportion (21%) of females also dispersed, and female dispersal distances (mean ± SE ?=? 48.9±7.7 km) were comparable to male dispersal distances (59.0±3.2 km). Dispersal probabilities and dispersal distances were greatest for bears in areas with high habitat suitability and low harvest density. The inverse relationship between dispersal and harvest density in black bears suggests that 1) intensive harvest promotes restricted dispersal, or 2) high black bear population density decreases the propensity to disperse. Multigenerational genetic data collected over large landscape scales can be a powerful means of characterizing dispersal patterns and causal associations with demographic and landscape features in wild populations of elusive and wide-ranging species.
Project description:Across taxa, sex-specific demands vary temporally in accordance with reproductive investments. In solitary carnivores, females must provision and protect young independently while meeting increased energetic demands. Males seek to monopolize access to females by maintaining large territories and defending them from other males. For many species, it is poorly understood how these demands relate to broad-scale animal movements. To investigate predictions surrounding the reproductive strategies of solitary carnivores and effects of local conditions on bobcat (Lynx rufus) spatial ecology, we examined the effects of sex and reproductive season on home range size, movement rate, and resource selection of bobcats in the central Appalachian Mountains. Male seasonal home ranges were approximately 3 times larger than those of females (33.9 ± 2.6 vs. 12.1 ± 2.4 km2, x±SE), and male movement rates were 1.4 times greater than females (212.6 ± 3.6 vs. 155 ± 8.2 m/hr), likely reflecting male efforts to maximize access to females. Both sexes appear to maintain relatively stable seasonal home ranges despite temporally varying reproductive investments, instead adjusting movements within home ranges. Males increased movements during the dispersal period, potentially reflecting increased territoriality prior to breeding. Females increased movements during the kitten-rearing period, when foraging more intensively, and frequently returning to den sites. Both sexes selected home ranges at higher elevations. However, females selected deciduous forest and avoided fields, whereas males selected fields and avoided deciduous forest, perhaps explained by male pressure to access multiple females across several mountain ridges and higher risk tolerance. Seasonal changes in home range selection likely reflect changes in home range shape. Increased female avoidance of fields during kitten rearing may indicate female avoidance of presumably resource rich, yet risky, fields at the time when kittens are most vulnerable. Our results indicate that while reproductive chronology influences the spatial ecology of solitary carnivores, effects may be constrained by territoriality.
Project description:Knowing the reproductive characteristics of a species is essential for the appropriate conservation and management of wildlife. In this study, we investigated the demographic parameters, including age of primiparity, litter size, inter-birth interval, reproductive rate, and cub survival rate, of Hokkaido brown bears (Ursus arctos yesoensis) in the Rusha area on the Shiretoko Peninsula, Hokkaido, Japan, based on a long-term, individual-based monitoring survey. A total of 15 philopatric females were observed nearly every year from 2006 to 2016, and these observations were used to estimate reproductive parameters. The mean age of primiparity was 5.3 ± 0.2 (SE) years (n = 7, 95% CI = 5.0-5.6). We observed 81 cubs in 46 litters from 15 bears. Litter size ranged from one to three cubs, and averaged 1.76 ± 0.08 (SE) cubs/litter (95% CI = 1.61-1.91). Inter-birth intervals ranged from 1 to 4 years, and the mean value was estimated as 2.43 (95% CI = 2.16-2.76) and 2.53 (95% CI = 2.26-2.85) years in all litters and in litters that survived at least their first year, respectively. The reproductive rate was estimated from 0.70 to 0.76 young born/year/reproductive adult female, depending on the method of calculation. The cub survival rate between 0.5 and 1.5 years ranged from 60 to 73%. Most cub disappearances occurred in July and August, suggesting that cub mortality is mainly due to poor nutrition in the summer. All reproductive parameters observed in the Rusha area on the Shiretoko Peninsula fell within the range reported in Europe and North America, and were among the lowest or shortest age of primiparity, litter size, and inter-birth intervals, and ranked at a high level for reproductive rate.
Project description:Sexually selected infanticide (SSI) is often presumed to be rare among seasonal breeders, because it would require a near immediate return to estrus after the loss of an entire litter during the mating season. We evaluated changes in reproductive strategies and the reproductive fate of females that experienced litter loss during the mating season in a seasonal breeder with strong evidence for SSI, the brown bear. First, we used a long-term demographic dataset (1986-2011) to document that a large majority of females (>91%) that lose their entire litter during the mating season in fact do enter estrus, mate, and give birth during the subsequent birthing season. Second, we used high-resolution movement data (2005-2011) to evaluate how females changed reproductive strategies after losing their entire litter during the mating season. We hypothesized that females would shift from the sedentary lifestyle typical for females with cubs-of-the-year to a roam-to-mate behavior typical for receptive females in no more than a few (?3) days after litter loss. We found that females with cubs-of-the-year moved at about 1/3 of the rate and in a less bimodal diurnal pattern than receptive females during the mating season. The probability of litter loss was positively related with movement rate, suggesting that being elusive and sedentary is a strategy to enhance cub survival rather than a relic of cub mobility itself. The movement patterns of receptive females and females after litter loss were indistinguishable within 1-2 days after the litter loss, and we illustrate that SSI can significantly reduce the female interbirth interval (50-85%). Our results suggest that SSI can also be advantageous for males in seasonally breeding mammals. We propose that infanticide as a male reproductive strategy is more prevalent among mammals with reproductive seasonality than observed or reported.
Project description:Large carnivores are imperiled globally, and characteristics making them vulnerable to extinction (e.g., low densities and expansive ranges) also make it difficult to estimate demographic parameters needed for management. Here we develop an integrated population model to analyze capture-recapture, radiotelemetry, and count data for the Chukchi Sea subpopulation of polar bears (Ursus maritimus), 2008-2016. Our model addressed several challenges in capture-recapture studies for polar bears by including a multievent structure reflecting location and life history states, while accommodating state uncertainty. Female breeding probability was 0.83 (95% credible interval [CRI] = 0.71-0.90), with litter sizes of 2.18 (95% CRI = 1.71-2.82) for age-zero and 1.61 (95% CRI = 1.46-1.80) for age-one cubs. Total adult survival was 0.90 (95% CRI = 0.86-0.92) for females and 0.89 (95% CRI = 0.83-0.93) for males. Spring on-ice densities west of Alaska were 0.0030 bears/km2 (95% CRI = 0.0016-0.0060), similar to 1980s-era density estimates although methodological differences complicate comparison. Abundance of the Chukchi Sea subpopulation, derived by extrapolating density from the study area using a spatially-explicit habitat metric, was 2,937 bears (95% CRI = 1,552-5,944). Our findings are consistent with other lines of evidence suggesting the Chukchi Sea subpopulation has been productive in recent years, although it is uncertain how long this will continue given sea-ice loss due to climate change.
Project description:One of the principal factors that have reduced grizzly bear populations has been the creation of human access into grizzly bear habitat by roads built for resource extraction. Past studies have documented mortality and distributional changes of bears relative to roads but none have attempted to estimate the direct demographic impact of roads in terms of both survival rates, reproductive rates, and the interaction of reproductive state of female bears with survival rate. We applied a combination of survival and reproductive models to estimate demographic parameters for threatened grizzly bear populations in Alberta. Instead of attempting to estimate mean trend we explored factors which caused biological and spatial variation in population trend. We found that sex and age class survival was related to road density with subadult bears being most vulnerable to road-based mortality. A multi-state reproduction model found that females accompanied by cubs of the year and/or yearling cubs had lower survival rates compared to females with two year olds or no cubs. A demographic model found strong spatial gradients in population trend based upon road density. Threshold road densities needed to ensure population stability were estimated to further refine targets for population recovery of grizzly bears in Alberta. Models that considered lowered survival of females with dependant offspring resulted in lower road density thresholds to ensure stable bear populations. Our results demonstrate likely spatial variation in population trend and provide an example how demographic analysis can be used to refine and direct conservation measures for threatened species.