Publications by authors named "Michelle L McLellan"

3 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Vital rates of two small populations of brown bears in Canada and range-wide relationship between population size and trend.

Ecol Evol 2021 Apr 10;11(7):3422-3434. Epub 2021 Mar 10.

School of Biological Sciences Victoria University of Wellington Wellington New Zealand.

Identifying mechanisms of population change is fundamental for conserving small and declining populations and determining effective management strategies. Few studies, however, have measured the demographic components of population change for small populations of mammals (<50 individuals). We estimated vital rates and trends in two adjacent but genetically distinct, threatened brown bear () populations in British Columbia, Canada, following the cessation of hunting. One population had approximately 45 resident bears but had some genetic and geographic connectivity to neighboring populations, while the other population had <25 individuals and was isolated. We estimated population-specific vital rates by monitoring survival and reproduction of telemetered female bears and their dependent offspring from 2005 to 2018. In the larger, connected population, independent female survival was 1.00 (95% CI: 0.96-1.00) and the survival of cubs in their first year was 0.85 (95% CI: 0.62-0.95). In the smaller, isolated population, independent female survival was 0.81 (95% CI: 0.64-0.93) and first-year cub survival was 0.33 (95% CI: 0.11-0.67). Reproductive rates did not differ between populations. The large differences in age-specific survival estimates resulted in a projected population increase in the larger population ( = 1.09; 95% CI: 1.04-1.13) and population decrease in the smaller population ( = 0.84; 95% CI: 0.72-0.95). Low female survival in the smaller population was the result of both continued human-caused mortality and an unusually high rate of natural mortality. Low cub survival may have been due to inbreeding and the loss of genetic diversity common in small populations, or to limited resources. In a systematic literature review, we compared our population trend estimates with those reported for other small populations (<300 individuals) of brown bears. Results suggest that once brown bear populations become small and isolated, populations rarely increase and, even with intensive management, recovery remains challenging.
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April 2021

Effect of season and high ambient temperature on activity levels and patterns of grizzly bears (Ursus arctos).

PLoS One 2015 18;10(2):e0117734. Epub 2015 Feb 18.

British Columbia Fish, Wildlife and Habitat Management, D'Arcy, British Columbia, Canada.

Understanding factors that influence daily and annual activity patterns of a species provides insights to challenges facing individuals, particularly when climate shifts, and thus is important in conservation. Using GPS collars with dual-axis motion sensors that recorded the number of switches every 5 minutes we tested the hypotheses: 1. Grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) increase daily activity levels and active bout lengths when they forage on berries, the major high-energy food in this ecosystem, and 2. Grizzly bears become less active and more nocturnal when ambient temperature exceeds 20°C. We found support for hypothesis 1 with both male and female bears being active from 0.7 to 2.8 h longer in the berry season than in other seasons. Our prediction under hypothesis 2 was not supported. When bears foraged on berries on a dry, open mountainside, there was no relationship between daily maximum temperature (which varied from 20.4 to 40.1°C) and the total amount of time bears were active, and no difference in activity levels during day or night between warm (20.4-27.3°C) and hot (27.9-40.1°C) days. Our results highlight the strong influence that food acquisition has on activity levels and patterns of grizzly bears and is a challenge to the heat dissipation limitation theory.
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November 2015

Implications of body condition on the unsustainable predation rates of endangered mountain caribou.

Oecologia 2012 Jul 20;169(3):853-60. Epub 2011 Dec 20.

Columbia Mountains Caribou Project, 4667 Carlson Rd., Nelson, BC, V1L 6X3, Canada.

Both top-down and bottom-up processes influence herbivore populations, and identifying dominant limiting factors is essential for applying effective conservation actions. Mountain caribou are an endangered ecotype of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) that have been declining, and unsustainable predation has been identified as the proximate cause. To investigate the role of poor nutrition, we examined the influence of sex, season, age class, and available suitable habitat (i.e., old-growth forest>140 years) per caribou on bone marrow fat content of caribou that died (n = 79). Sex was the only strong predictor of marrow fat. Males that died during and post rut had lower marrow fat than females or males at other times of year. Old-growth abundance per caribou, season, and age class did not predict marrow fat. Caribou killed by predators did not have less marrow fat than those that died in accidents, suggesting that nutritionally stressed caribou were not foraging in less secure habitats or that predators selected nutritionally stressed individuals. Marrow fat in endangered and declining populations of mountain caribou was similar to caribou in other, more viable populations. Our results support previous research suggesting that observed population declines of mountain caribou are due to excessive predation that is not linked to body condition.
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July 2012