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

Degree Name

Master of Science


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.