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Gene flow estimates in Utah's cougars imply management beyond Utah

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 August 2001

Elizabeth A. Sinclair
Affiliation:
Department of Zoology, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT, 84602-5255, USA
Eric L. Swenson
Affiliation:
Department of Zoology, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT, 84602-5255, USA
Michael L. Wolfe
Affiliation:
Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-5210, USA
David C. Choate
Affiliation:
Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-5210, USA
Bill Bates
Affiliation:
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, 1594 West North Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84114, USA
Keith A. Crandall
Affiliation:
Department of Zoology, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT, 84602-5255, USA
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Abstract

We present results from a study of genetic variation in Utah's cougar population. Estimates were based on data for 50 animals at nine microsatellite loci with five individuals sampled for each of ten management units throughout Utah. Levels of variation were moderate (average genetic diversity across populations was estimated to be 0.4687 for all 50 individuals), and comparable with other large mammals. But this level of variation for the microsatellite loci translated into an inbreeding effective population size of only 571 animals, much lower than the current estimates of census sizes of around 2000-3000. A lack of differentiation among the sampled populations across Utah (average Nem = 6.2) indicates that gene flow occurs over a large area. Since cougars are capable of movement beyond the Utah state borders (and certainly across management units), a better understanding of migration rates and patterns of dispersal will be achieved by sampling a much larger geographic region incorporating much of the western USA. Successful management and conservation of this species will then require a far more integrated approach, involving agencies across a number of states, as opposed to current management practices involving individual units within states.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2001 The Zoological Society of London

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