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Landscape Connectivity for Large Predators in the Arizona Sky Islands

 

Background:

Large predators (cougars and black bears) inhabiting the “sky islands” of southeastern Arizona exist in populations connected by dispersal events between islands of suitable habitat. Human activities such as highway construction and agricultural or urban developments can reduce dispersal opportunities which could sever corridors linking populations, thus threatening the continued existence of isolated wildlife populations in Arizona, as well as western New Mexico and northern Sonora, Mexico. 

 

Location:

Habitat for cougars and black bears in southeastern Arizona is largely restricted to “islands” of mountainous terrain separated by desert valleys.  Our study is focusing on the large predator populations of the Huachuca, Santa Rita, Patagonia, Pajarito and Chiricahua mountain ranges.  Habitat consists of mixed Pine-Oak communities at the higher elevations (>6,000 ft) and Oak woodlands transitioning to upper Sonoran desert at mid and lower elevations.

 

Approach:

We are collecting genetic samples from cougars and black bears within each of the focal mountain ranges to estimate population levels and genetic diversity to assess relatedness and connectivity among populations.  Although no new capture efforts are underway for cougars or black bears, we are monitoring movements of marked cougars and black bears equipped with satellite tracking collars to assess habitat use, interchange rates, and identify travel corridors among the “sky Island” mountain ranges of southeastern Arizona.

 

Benefits: 
By using this multi-tiered approach we will gain a more thorough understanding of the impact of Human activity and development on movement of large carnivores, impact on carnivore population structure, and importance of mitigating strategies for enhancing the existence of Large predators in Arizona.


For more information contact: 
Kirby Bristow, Arizona Game and Fish Department
5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85023
E-mail: kbristow@azgfd.gov


Michelle Crabb, Arizona Game and Fish Department
5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85023
E-mail: mcrabb@azgfd.gov

 


 
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