Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Arizona
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Arizona Project

Conservation Genetics and Population Dynamics of Black Bears in Arizona

January 2006 - December 2017


Participating Agencies

  • Arizona Game & Fish Dept.

There is increasing concern about the long-term survival of black bear Ursus americanus populations in Arizona and the southwest deserts where black bear habitat occurs in mountain “sky islands” which are separated by a “sea” of desert and grasslands. Fragmentation or perturbation of a species habitat can lead to genetic changes among the separate populations which can have adverse implications for the conservation of the species. A continuous and careful monitoring of connectivity among sky islands and management units is important to ensure the black bear’s continued existence in the southwest deserts of North America. We performed genetic analyses on Arizona and Mexico black bears and determined the amount of gene flow, genetic variability, population size, inbreeding, genetic structure, and evolutionary relationships among populations. Partners involved were Arizona Game and Fish Department, Mexican Universities, and the U.S. Geological Survey These analyses were used to understand the ecological factors influencing the long-term survival of black bears in the southwest desert habitats. Resource agencies can use this knowledge of population connectivity, and population sizes, improve black bear population management.