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The Ecological Role of Large Mammals in the Forests of Kentucky and the Eastern United States: Implications for Conservation
Department of Forestry
Large mammal conservation and restoration present many challenges to the public, land owners, and wildlife managers. This research focuses on the role of large native mammals in the natural landscapes of the eastern U.S. and the development of recommendations for their conservation and restoration. This work will require a detailed understanding of the current large mammal communities in Kentucky and elsewhere in the southeastern U.S., and an evaluation of the importance of the faunal and landscape changes of the last two centuries relative to the restoration of biodiversity in the region.
2011 Project Description
Large mammal research during this project has focused on the ecology, conservation, and management of large mammals, with most work having been conducted on the black bear in Florida and Kentucky, and elk in Kentucky. Additional work included ecological investigations of bison in Yellowstone and panthers in Florida.
We have conducted thousands of hours of field research in conjunction with state and federal wildlife, conservation, and natural resource agency professionals, non-profit organizations, private individuals, students at the University of Kentucky and abroad. These data and associated research findings have been important for applied management of several large mammals and ecological communities. In addition we have spent thousands of hours analyzing data, creating models, and preparing documents for dissemination to the scientific community and general public.
Finally, through teaching and extension outlets on and off campus, our research has served as important class-room examples of wildlife science and created field-based learning opportunities for nearly 400 undergraduate students and a dozen graduate students in the natural resource or biological sciences at the University of Kentucky or elsewhere, and nearly 500 students in elementary schools in the state. The research has also served as an informational springboard in creation of 4 new graduate courses (3 seminars, and a field-based series course).
Through television, magazine, and other media interviews our large mammal research projects have drawn considerable positive attention and reached audiences at multiple scales, from local outlets to TV viewers across the globe. Our field-based research has road-tested new technologies (e.g. GPS collars, cell-phone based transmission of animal location data, non-invasive genetic studies) and evaluated their efficacy, cost-effectiveness, and limitations for use in large mammal studies.
Some of these technologies have later been adopted by wildlife professionals. The data generated from these studies in their many forms (animal location data, maps, models) have been used by our collaborators and funders to help make science-based decisions about said species. As such, we have developed important collaborations and productive relationships with a number of natural resource agencies, NGOs, private individuals, and other academic institutions, that have ultimately resulted in the leverage of a number of research grants.
In addition, our work has led to the development of conceptual models that have increased our knowledge and understanding of community ecology.
Our findings have led to important changes in management, conservation, and land planning in several places in the U.S. Our black bear research has led to the development of strategies to ameliorate further development impacts on the species in southcentral Florida and helped delineate the proposed boundary of a new national wildlife refuge designed to protect the headwaters of the Everglades.
Our analyses of these bear data have led to the creation of a road-crossing model designed to inform transportation officials about areas of high road strike risk to bears in this relatively small population. In this area we also successfully partnered with a number of cattle ranchers, NGOs, local government officials, and a biological research station to identify information that has helped lead to science-informed educational and planning strategies to help bears, ranchers, developers, and private citizens better co-exist.
In addition, studies on bears within a palm-feeding guild in this area have led to new synthetic findings regarding intraguild mutualism. In Kentucky, where bears have only recently recolonized eastern portions of the state, our bear research has led to improved understanding of human-bear relations, particularly with regard to the conditioned behaviors of nuisance bears.
Research in the Commonwealth has also provided important information on bear population size that has informed harvest strategies for the species which given its small population size remains at high-risk of overharvest.
In particular here (and in FL) our bear work has road-tested the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of new GPS and cell-phone collar technologies to remotely locate animals and gather data. These data have yielded new insight into resource use and movement patterns of bears (and elk) of interest to wildlife managers and land planning organizations interested in landscape-scale ecological connectivity.
In Yellowstone National Park, our work has provided important insight into the effects that selective culling may be having on overall herd immunity to and spread of brucellosis, which in-turn, has increased the call for alternative strategies to deal with this management issue important for conservation and the agricultural economy outside the park.
Results from the FL panther research has helped improve our knowledge base about resource use and potential impacts of extractive activities on these endangered cats, and through predictive modeling, how they may be impacted from continued urbanization and climate change-caused sea level rise.
Our elk research has yielded important information on the largest herd of megaherbivores in the eastern U.S. Our pioneering use of infrared technologies to study and model elk numbers in Kentucky led to refinement and recalibration of existing population models. In addition, studies of elk have yielded important insight into how this large deer species is impacting the landscape, particularly at sites that are degraded and/or fragmented such as reclaimed mines. Finally, our efforts have led to initiation of a study on the most difficult to monitor age-gender class of elk, adult bulls.
Chamber, D.L., W.A. Ulrey, J.M. Guthrie, O.C.H. Kwok, J.J. Cox, D.S. Maehr, and J.P.Dupey. 2011. Seroprevalence of Toxoplamosis gondii in free-ranging black bears in Florida. Journal of Parasitology. In press.
Crowley, P.H., and J.J. Cox. 2011. Intraguild mutualism. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. In press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2011.07.011
Treanor, J., C. Germenia, P.H. Crowley, J.J. Cox, P.J.White, R. Wallen, and D. Blanton. 2011. Estimating probabilities of active brucellosis infection in Yellowstone bison through quantitative serology and tissue culture. Journal of Applied Ecology. In press.
Augustine, B., P.H. Crowley, and J.J. Cox. 2011. A mechanistic model of GPS collar fix acquisition. Ecological Modeling. 222:3615-3625.
Fei, S., J.J. Cox, and A.Whittle. 2011. A perfect storm threatens recovery of the Florida panther. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 9:317-318.
Treanor, J.T., R.L. Waller, D.S. Maehr, and P.H. Crowley. 2007. Brucellosis in Yellowstone bison: implications for conservation management. Yellowstone Science 20:20-24.
Olsson, M.P. O.., J.J. Cox, J.L. Larkin, D.S. Maehr, P. Widen, and M.W. Wichrowski. 2007. Movement and activity patterns of reintroduced elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) on an active coal mine in Kentucky. Wildlife Biology in Practice 3:1-8.
Cox, J.J., D.S. Maehr, and J.L. Larkin. 2006. Florida panther habitat use: New approach to an old problem. Journal of Wildlife Management. 70:1778-1785.
Schneider, J., D.S. Maehr, K. Alexy, J.J. Cox, J.L. Larkin, and B.C. Reeder. 2006. Food habits of reintroduced elk in eastern Kentucky. Southeastern Naturalist 5:535-546.
Maehr, D.S., P. Crowley, J.J. Cox, M.L. Lacki, J.L. Larkin, T.S. Hoctor, L.D. Harris, and P.M. Hall. 2006. Of cats and Haruspices: genetic intervention in the Florida panther. Animal Conservation. 9:127-132.
Seward, N.W., D.S. Maehr, J.W. Gassett, J.J. Cox, and J.L. Larkin. 2005. Field searches versus vaginal implant transmitters for locating elk calves. Wildlife Society Bulletin 33: 751-755.
Wichrowski, M.W., D.S. Maehr, J.L. Larkin, J.J. Cox, and M. Olsson. 2005. Activity and movements of reintroduced elk in southeastern Kentucky. Southeastern Naturalist 4:365-374.
Book Chapters Maehr, D.S. 2007. Views from the bear den. Pages 171-207 in J. Lange, editor. The bear book. Bear Trust International, Missoula, MT.
Maehr, D.S., J.J. Cox, and J.L. Larkin. 2006. Elk (Cervus elaphus). Pages 526-532 in M. Trani-Griep, editor. The land manager's guide to mammals of the South. USDA Forest Service and The Nature Conservancy. Atlanta, GA.
Maehr, D.S. 2005. Can the Florida panther provide insight into restoring the eastern cougar Pages 169-177 in C. Bolgiano and J. Roberts, editors. The eastern cougar: historic accounts, scientific investigations, new evidence. Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA.
Maehr, D.S., M.A. Orlando, and J.J. Cox. 2005. Large carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores in South Florida: An evolutionary approach to conserving landscapes and biodiversity. Pages 293-314 in J. Ray, J. Berger, and K. Redford, editors. Large carnivores and the conservation of biodiversity. Island Press, Washington, D.C.
Technical Reports Davis, S.E. III, K. Hines, W. Conner, J.J. Cox, D. Gawlik, J. Jackson, J. Jones, F.M.Wilhelm, and J. Richards. 2009. Oil and gas impacts in the Big Cypress ecosystem: An analysis of impacts associated with proposed activities in the Nobles Grade area. Draft manuscript. Everglades Foundation.
Theses and Dissertations Murphy, S. 2011. Status of a reintroduced black bear population in the Big South Fork area of Kentucky. M.S. Thesis, University of Kentucky, Lexington.
Harris, H. 2011. The return of the black bear to eastern Kentucky: conflict and tolerance between people and wildlife. Ph.D. Dissertation. University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY.
Hast, J.T. 2010. Genetic diversity, structure, and recolonization patterns of Kentucky black bears M.S. Thesis. University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY.
Kougher, J.D. 2009. Multiple scale resource selection by elk (Cervus Elaphus) in northcentral Pennsylvania. M.S. Thesis. Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA.
Jensen, R.A. 2009. The effects of roads on space use and movements of black bears in eastern Kentucky. M.S. Thesis. University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY.
Augustine, B. 2009. GPS bias in resource selection studies: a case study using black bears in southeastern Kentucky. M.S. Thesis. University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY.
Bowling, W. 2009. Maternal antibody transfer and meningeal worm infection rates in Kentucky elk. M.S. Thesis. University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY.
Whittle, A. 2009. Florida panther and black bear: a road and urban avoidance/utilization analysis and impacts of land use and climate change on large carnivore habitat in Florida. M.S. Thesis. University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY.
Dahl, L.M. 2008. Using forward-looking infrared radiography to estimate elk density and distribution in eastern Kentucky. M.S. Thesis. University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY.
Ulrey, W. 2008. Home range, habitat use, and food habits of the black bear in southcentral Florida. M.S. Thesis. University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY.
Unger, D.E. 2007. Population dynamics, resource selection, and landscape conservation of a recolonizing black bear population. Ph.D. Dissertation. University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY.
Terbeest, J. 2005. Effects of a restored elk population on soils, vegetation, and water quality in eastern Kentucky. M.S. Thesis. University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY.
Published Abstracts Hast, J.T., B.A. Augustine, J.J. Cox, S.M. Murphy, S. Dobey, and J. Plaxico. 2011. Reproductive ecology and of a recolonizing black bear population in Kentucky. The Wildlife Society 18th Annual Conference. Nov. 5-10. Waikoloa, HI.
Murphy, S.M., J.J. Cox, J.T. Hast, and S. Fei. 2011. Using non-invasive hair sampling to estimate the size and density of a reintroduced black bear population in south-central Kentucky. The Wildlife Society 18th Annual Conference. Nov. 5-10. Waikoloa, HI.
Guthrie, J.G., J.J. Cox, and W.A. Ulrey. 2011. Modeling road-crossing behavior for the southcentral Florida black bear. The Wildlife Society 18th Annual Conference. Nov. 5-10. Waikoloa, HI.
Augustine, B.A., P.H. Crowley, J.J. Cox, and D.S. Maehr. 2010. Understanding controllable sources of fix proportion bias in GPS telemetry. The Wildlife Society,Kentucky Chapter State Conference. February 18-19. 2010 Mammoth Cave, KY.
Hast, J.T., J.J. Cox, S. Fei, D. Weisrock, S. Dobey, and J. Plaxico. 2010. Genetic structure and source populations of Kentucky black bears. The Wildlife Society 17th Annual Conference. Oct. 2-6. Snowbird, UT.
Augustine, B., D.S. Maehr, J.J. Cox, and P.H. Crowley. 2010. Implications of the piecewise-linear threshold effect in GPS collar fix proportion data. The Wildlife Society 17th Annual Conference. Oct. 2-6. Snowbird, UT.
Cox, J.J., L. Dahl, K. Alexy, D. Unger, W. Bowling, D. Maehr, and J. Larkin. 2009. Irruptive growth of reintroduced elk in Kentucky: looming management and conservation challenges. Society for Conservation Biology 23rd Annual Conference. July 10-16. Beijing, China.
Cox, J.J. 2009. Donuts and dart rifles, coal mines and cabbage palms: challenges and opportunities in studying the black bear in Kentucky and Florida. American Association of Laboratory Animal Science, Louisville, KY. May 16, 2009.
Dahl, L.M., J.J. Cox, K.J. Alexy, J.E. Duchamp, D.S. Maehr, D.E. Unger, W.E. Bowling, J.L. Larkin. 2008. Using FLIR to assess abundance and distribution of elk in eastern Kentucky. The Wildlife Society 15th Annual Conference. Nov. 8-12. Miami, FL.
Bowling, W., D.S. Maehr, J.J. Cox, L.M. Dahl, and K. Alexy. 2008. Movements, home range characteristics, and demographics of elk in eastern Kentucky. The Wildlife Society 15th Annual Conference. Nov. 8-12. Miami, FL. Whittle, A., D.S. Maehr, and S. Fei. 2008. Global climate change and its effects on large carnivore habitat in Florida. The Wildlife Society 15th Annual Conference. Nov. 8-12. Miami, FL.
Guthrie, J.M., W.A. Ulrey, and D.S. Maehr. 2008. Status and ecology of a threatened black bear population in southcentral Florida. The Wildlife Society 15th Annual Conference. Nov. 8-12. Miami, FL.
Treanor, J., J. Johnson, R. Wallen, S. Cilles, P. Crowley, D. Maehr, and G. Plumb. 2007. Brucellosis in Yellowstone bison: An individual-based simulation model of vaccination strategies. Proceedings of the 110th Annual Meeting of the United States Animal Health Association. 15-18 October 2006. Minneapolis, MN.
Cox, J.J. 2007. Wildlife reintroductions: a perturbed state of affairs. (Invited) The Wildlife Society 14th Annual Conference. Sept. 22-26. Tucson, AZ.
Cox, J.J., D.S. Maehr, Z. Danks, N.W. Seward, and K. Alexy. 2007. Coyote-elk relations in southeastern Kentucky (Invited). Southeastern Furbearers Workshop, May 9-12. Cadiz, KY.
Maehr, D.S., D.E. Unger, H.B. Harris, W.A. Ulrey, R. Jensen, J.M. Guthrie, V. Frary, J.L. Larkin, A.N. Schuhmann, L.M. Dahl, J.J. Cox, and J.H. Harrelson. 2007. University of Kentucky Black Bear Research Summary -2007. Eastern Black Bear Workshop, Shepardstown, WV. April.
Cox, J.J., D.S. Maehr, Z. Danks, N.W. Seward, and K. Alexy. 2006. Coyote-elk relations in southeastern Kentucky. The Wildlife Society 13th Annual Conference. Sept. 23-27, 2007. Anchorage, Alaska.
Treanor, J., J. Johnson, R. Wallen, S. Cilles, P. Crowley, and D.S. Maehr. 2006. Brucellosis in Yellowstone bison: Simulating management vaccination strategies. United States Animal Health Association and American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians Conference. Minneapolis, MN. October.
Cox, J.J., D.S. Maehr, and J.L. Larkin. 2005. A Euclidean distance-based habitat use analysis of the endangered Florida panther. Society for Conservation Biology 19th Annual Conference. July 15-19. University of Brasilia, Brazil.
Maehr, D.S., J.J. Cox, and J.L. Larkin. 2005. Florida panther habitat use: a new approach to a management dilemma. 12th Annual Conference of The Wildlife Society. September 23-27. Madison, Wisconsin.
Maehr, D.S., J.J. Cox, J.L. Larkin, P.H. Crowley, J. Treanor, T.S. Hoctor, and J.L. Gittleman. 2005. Do life histories and landscape predict colonization success in large mammals Ninth International Mammalogical Congress, Sapporo, Japan. August.
Ter Beest, J.M., D.S. Maehr, C.D. Barton, J.L. Larkin, and J.J. Cox. 2005. Effects of a restored elk population on soils, vegetation, and water quality in eastern Kentucky. 12th Annual Conference of The Wildlife Society. Madison, Wisconsin. September.
Harris, H.B., and D.S. Maehr. 2005. Watching bears in Kingdom Come: wildlife tourism in eastern Kentucky. 12th Annual Conference of The Wildlife Society. Madison, Wisconsin. September.
Ter Beest, J.M., C.D. Barton, D.S. Maehr, and J.L. Larkin. 2005. Effects of a restored elk population on soils, vegetation, and water quality in eastern Kentucky. Soil and Water Conservation Society. Rochester, NY. August.
Cox, J.J., D.S. Maehr, and J.L. Larkin. 2005. A Euclidean distance-based habitat use analysis of the endangered Florida panther. Society for Conservation Biology 19th Annual Conference. University of Brasilia, Brazil. July.
Maehr, D.S., J.N. Layne, T.S. Hoctor, and M.A. Orlando. 2005. Status of the black bear in south-central Florida. Archbold Symposium, Archbold Biological Station, Lake Placid, FL. January.
Ulrey, W.A., D.S. Maehr, J.M. Guthrie, and M. Smoak. 2005. Ecology and conservation of a small black bear population in south-central Florida. 18th Eastern Black Bear Workshop, Tallahassee, FL. March.
Non-refereed Literature and popular media Maehr, D.S. 2007. Central Florida ranches are Key to the black bear's future. Florida Cattleman 71(12):90-96.
Maehr, D.S. 2007. Black bear ecology and colonization in eastern Kentucky. Kentucky Woodlands. 2(3):4-5.
Spence, C. 2011. The bear facts. The Magazine: University of Kentucky College of Agriculture 12:10-13.
White, M. 2011. Bear essentials. Audubon 113:28-32.
Jenkins, M. 2011. The Headwaters. Nature Conservancy. Issue 2:44-53.
KY Afield TV Series: March 2010 http://www.youtube.com/watchv=dzz9LZ554NM
CNN: September 2009 http://articles.cnn.com/2009-09-07/tech/florida.tracking.bears 1 bear s-researchers-doughnuts s=PM:TECH
The Cincinnati Post: "The return of the elk." Sept. 7 2006
The Kentucky Post: "The biggest comeback." Aug. 26 2006.
National Wildlife: "Cat on the spot." April/May 2006.
Washington Post: "Plan to protect Florida panther reopens issue of its identity." Feb. 21 2006.
Odyssey: "From here to Kingdom Come." Spring, 2005.
Science: `Genetic rescue' helps panthers but puts researchers on the spot. 2005. 309:1162.