Estimating black bear (Ursus americanus) population size is a difficult but important requirement when justifying harvest quotas and managing populations. Advancements in genetic techniques provide a means to identify individual bears using DNA contained in tissue and hair samples, thereby permitting estimates of population abundance based on established mark–capture–recapture methodology. We expand on previous noninvasive population-estimation work by geographically extending sampling areas (36,848 km2) to include the entire Northern Lower Peninsula (NLP) of Michigan, USA. We selected sampling locations randomly within biologically relevant bear habitat and used barbed wire hair snares to collect hair samples. Unlike previous noninvasive studies, we used tissue samples from harvested bears as an additional sampling occasion to increase recapture probabilities. We developed subsampling protocols to account for both spatial and temporal variance in sample distribution and variation in sample quality using recently published quality control protocols using 5 microsatellite loci. We quantified genotyping errors using samples from harvested bears and estimated abundance using statistical models that accounted for genotyping error. We estimated the population of yearling and adult black bears in the NLP to be 1,882 bears (95% CI = 1,389–2,551 bears). The derived population estimate with a 15% coefficient of variation was used by wildlife managers to examine the sustainability of harvest over a large geographic area.
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Vol. 71 • No. 8