Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Belant, Jerrold L.

Committee Member

Gardner, Beth

Committee Member

Strickland, Bronson K.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Graduate Thesis - Open Access


Wildlife and Fisheries Science

Degree Name

Master of Science


College of Forest Resources


Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture


Understanding species’ distribution, density, and sources of bias in population estimates is critical for reliable conservation strategies. I assessed American black bear distribution, density, and abundance in southern Missouri. Using anecdotal occurrence data, I demonstrated support for a northward trend in extent of occurrences over time and a positive correlation between bear distribution and human–bear incidents. I also used GPS telemetry and camera traps to investigate detection biases in DNA hair snare methods and tested efficacy of two sampling designs for estimating density using spatial capture-recapture models. Results demonstrated that detection probability decreased following a negative asymptotic relationship with decreasing bear proximity to snares and that hair deposition rates decreased over time. Precision of estimates for low density populations with non-uniform distribution increased when using multiple arrays with intensive snare spacing. Optimizing the tradeoff among snare spacing, coverage, and sample size is important for estimating parameters with high precision.