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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2011

Estimating population size and trends of the Swedish brown bear Ursus arctos population

Kindberg, Jonas; Swenson, Jon E.; Ericsson, Goran; Bellemain, Eva; Miquel, Christian; Taberlet, Pierre

Abstract

Estimating population size and trends are key issues in the conservation and management of large carnivores. The rebounding brown bear Ursus arctos population in Sweden is monitored by two different systems, both relying on voluntary resources. Population estimates have been calculated using Capture-Mark-Recapture methods, based on DNA-based scat surveys in five of the six Swedish counties with established bear populations. A total of 1,358 genotypes were identified using DNA extracted from collected scats. An independent ongoing programme, the Large Carnivore Observation Index (LCOI), was initiated in 1998. The LCOI uses effort-corrected observations of bears by moose Alces alces hunters during the moose hunt (> 2 million observation hours/year) and has shown a good correlation with relative population density of bears using the DNA-based method. From this, we have calculated population trends during the period 1998-2007. Using an exponential model, we estimated the yearly increase in the bear population to be 4.5% at the national level, varying between 0 and 10.2% in different counties. We used the regional population estimates and the trends from the LCOI, taking the variation from both systems into account using parametric bootstrapping, to calculate the regional as well as the national population size in Sweden in fall 2008. In one case (the northernmost county; Norrbotten) a DNA-scat survey was lacking, so we used assumptions based on data from the neighbouring county to estimate population size. We estimated the Swedish brown bear population to be 3,298 individuals (2,9683,667; 95% confidence intervals) in 2008. Our results suggest that reliable information, necessary for the management of the brown bear population can be obtained from volunteers using standardised methods.

Keywords

brown bear; DNA; faeces; genetic; monitoring; observations; population size; survey; Ursus arctos; volunteers

Published in

Wildlife Biology
2011, Volume: 17, number: 2, pages: 114-123