Date of Award:

2016

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Wildland Resources

Advisor/Chair:

Julie K. Young

Abstract

Animal movements and space use are fundamental components of life and play integral roles in organismal fitness, population dynamics, and the ecology and evolution of species. The heterogeneous distribution of resources and the movement required to access them, results in ecology being a fundamentally spatial concept. Thus, elucidating animal-habitat relationships is a central focus of wildlife ecology and conservation. I utilized GPS technology, resource selection functions, and generalized linear mixed models, to investigate the immediate post-release movements, denning chronology, release-site fidelity, and season-delineated movements, home ranges, and resource use for six, orphaned and rehabilitated black bears (Ursus americanus). This study represents the first application of GPS monitoring and resource selection for rehabilitated black bears. Data from this study provide insights into the activity of released rehabilitated black bear cubs, highlight trends among the release cohort, and illustrate the variability of individual behavior. Results indicate species-typical behaviors, with bears denning shortly after their releases, exhibiting elevated movement rates and dispersals during late-summer, preferential selection for certain habitat types based on season, and no utilization of anthropogenic-resources.

One primary concern for large carnivores that have been captive-reared or had prolonged exposure to humans during rehabilitation, is whether they will exhibit natural behaviors after release. Behavior testing in other species has revealed that many traits exhibited in captivity often translate to wild behavior, however this had not yet been investigated for black bears. This study presents the first application of captive behavior tests for the investigation into black bear personality, defined by consistency in the individual differences in behavior across time or context. Through open field, novel object, startle object, and focal-animal sampling, we investigate the potential for personality in six black bear cubs. Results indicate consistency in behavior across five metrics for the bold-shy axis, and eight sampling events measuring responses for the activity axis, thus indicating personality. Analysis to identify correlations to wild activity metrics did not yield strong statistical support, however. Information presented here may provide a framework for future research into black bear personality, its relationship to life-history and ecology, and lend support for rehabilitation practices for orphan bear cubs.

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