Evaluating density-weighted connectivity of black bears (Ursus americanus) in Glacier National Park with spatial capture–recapture models

Movement Ecology
By: , and 




Improved understanding of wildlife population connectivity among protected area networks can support effective planning for the persistence of wildlife populations in the face of land use and climate change. Common approaches to estimating connectivity often rely on small samples of individuals without considering the spatial structure of populations, leading to limited understanding of how individual movement links to demography and population connectivity. Recently developed spatial capture-recapture (SCR) models provide a framework to formally connect inference about individual movement, connectivity, and population density, but few studies have applied this approach to empirical data to support connectivity planning.


We used mark-recapture data collected from 924 genetic detections of 598 American black bears (Ursus americanus) in 2004 with SCR ecological distance models to simultaneously estimate density, landscape resistance to movement, and population connectivity in Glacier National Park northwest Montana, USA. We estimated density and movement parameters separately for males and females and used model estimates to calculate predicted density-weighted connectivity surfaces.


Model results indicated that landscape structure influences black bear density and space use in Glacier. The mean density estimate was 16.08 bears/100 km2 (95% CI 12.52–20.6) for females and 9.27 bears/100 km2 (95% CI 7.70–11.14) for males. Density increased with forest cover for both sexes. For male black bears, density decreased at higher grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) densities. Drainages, valley bottoms, and riparian vegetation decreased estimates of landscape resistance to movement for male and female bears. For males, forest cover also decreased estimated resistance to movement, but a transportation corridor bisecting the study area strongly increased resistance to movement presenting a barrier to connectivity.


Density-weighed connectivity surfaces highlighted areas important for population connectivity that were distinct from areas with high potential connectivity. For black bears in Glacier and surrounding landscapes, consideration of both vegetation and valley topography could inform the placement of underpasses along the transportation corridor in areas characterized by both high population density and potential connectivity. Our study demonstrates that the SCR ecological distance model can provide biologically realistic, spatially explicit predictions to support movement connectivity planning across large landscapes.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Evaluating density-weighted connectivity of black bears (Ursus americanus) in Glacier National Park with spatial capture–recapture models
Series title Movement Ecology
DOI 10.1186/s40462-023-00445-7
Volume 12
Year Published 2024
Language English
Publisher Springer Nature
Contributing office(s) Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center
Description 8, 18 p.
Country United States
State Montana
Other Geospatial Glacier National Park
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