Determinants of male reproductive success in American black bears

  • Cecily M. Costello
  • Scott R. Creel
  • Steven T. Kalinowski
  • Ninh V. Vu
  • Howard B. Quigley
Original Paper


We determined annual male reproductive success in black bears (Ursus americanus) using DNA and field data from two populations in New Mexico. We identified the likely father for 78 of 120 genotyped cubs born during 1994–2000 and calculated reproductive success for 102 males known or presumed present within designated mating regions. Age was a strong determinant of reproductive success. The observed peak in reproductive success occurred at roughly the same intermediate age (10 years) as milder peaks in body size characteristics (11–12 years) and frequency of bear-inflicted wounds (13 years), suggesting body size and fighting might be important for mating. Success was negatively associated with the distance between home range centers of males and mothers. Success of young males (<7 years old) was also negatively associated with mature male (≥7 years old) density, and increasing density shifted the peak age of reproduction higher. The dispersed distribution of females likely limited the capacity of large mature males to dominate reproduction; therefore, success was determined by a complex set of variables.


Age Body size Density DNA Paternity Ursus americanus 



Funding for the field study, conducted under contract by Hornocker Wildlife Institute and New Mexico Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, was provided by New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and US Fish and Wildlife Service (Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Project W-131-R), with additional support from New Mexico State University. Funding for subsequent work was provided to Wildlife Conservation Society by the Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation, Boone and Crockett Club, Thaw Charitable Trust, McCune Charitable Foundation, Selway Institute, Ripley Comegys Foundation, and Robert W. Wilson Fund. We thank M. Hornocker, B. Thompson, and J. Hilty for their leadership. We thank all of the people who contributed to the research, especially D. Jones, R. Inman, K. Inman, M. Haroldson, L. Temple, C. Hunt, M. Kirkeminde, D. Perkins, and J. Jonkel. We thank veterinarians T. Johnson, U. McElyea, K. Quigley, and J. Wenzel and pilots B. Akroyd, L. Himes, R. Poe, T. Sansom, C. Stansell, and D. Woodsum. We thank M. Murphy, D. Roon, L. Waits, and T. Langer for aid with genetic analyses. We acknowledge cooperation of the US Forest Service, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Philmont Scout Ranch, Atmore Ranch, Ute Creek Ranch, Mutz Ranch, Vermejo Park Ranch, and Chase Ranch. We thank S. Cherry for statistical insight and C. Schwartz, J. Swenson, M. Festa-Bianchet, J. Mainguy, and an anonymous reviewer for comments on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cecily M. Costello
    • 1
    • 4
  • Scott R. Creel
    • 2
  • Steven T. Kalinowski
    • 2
  • Ninh V. Vu
    • 2
  • Howard B. Quigley
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Hornocker Wildlife Institute and Wildlife Conservation SocietyBozemanUSA
  2. 2.Department of EcologyMontana State UniversityBozemanUSA
  3. 3.PantheraBozemanUSA
  4. 4.ManhattanUSA

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