Noninvasive genetic tracking of the endangered Pyrenean brown bear population


P. Taberlet Fax: + 33-476-51-42-79; Tel.: + 33-476-51-46-00 ext. 3705. E-mail:


Pyrenean brown bears Ursus arctos are threatened with extinction. Management efforts to preserve this population require a comprehensive knowledge of the number and sex of the remaining individuals and their respective home ranges. This goal has been achieved using a combination of noninvasive genetic sampling of hair and faeces collected in the field and corresponding track size data. Genotypic data were collected at 24 microsatellite loci using a rigorous multiple-tubes approach to avoid genotyping errors associated with low quantities of DNA. Based on field and genetic data, the Pyrenean population was shown to be composed at least of one yearling, three adult males, and one adult female. These data indicate that extinction of the Pyrenean brown bear population is imminent without population augmentation. To preserve the remaining Pyrenean gene pool and increase genetic diversity, we suggest that managers consider population augmentation using only females. This study demonstrates that comprehensive knowledge of endangered small populations of mammals can be obtained using noninvasive genetic sampling.