Predicted connectivity pathways between grizzly bear ecosystems in Western Montana

Sarah N. Sells, Cecily M. Costello, Paul M. Lukacs, Lori L. Roberts, Milan A. Vinks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Habitat and corridor mapping are key components of many conservation programs. Grizzly bear populations in the continental US are fragmented and connectivity among federal recovery areas is a conservation goal. Building on recent work, we modeled movements to predict areas of connectivity, using integrated step selection functions (iSSFs) developed from GPS-collared grizzly bears (F = 46, M = 19) in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE). We applied iSSFs in a >300,000 km2 area including the NCDE, Cabinet–Yaak (CYE), Bitterroot (BE), and Greater Yellowstone (GYE) Ecosystems. First, we simulated directed movements (randomized shortest paths with 3 levels of exploration) between start and end nodes across populations. Second, we simulated undirected movements from start nodes in the NCDE, CYE, or GYE (no predetermined end nodes). We summarized and binned results as classes 1 (lowest relative predicted use) – 10 (highest relative predicted use) and evaluated predictions using 127 outlier grizzly bear locations. Connectivity pathways were primarily associated with mountainous areas and secondarily with river and stream courses in open valleys. Values at outlier locations indicated good model fit and mean classes at outlier locations (≥7.4) and Spearman rank correlations (≥0.87) were highest for undirected simulations and directed simulations with the highest level of exploration. Our resulting predictive maps can facilitate on-the-ground application of this research for prioritizing habitat conservation, human-bear conflict mitigation, and transportation planning. Additionally, our overall modeling approach has utility for myriad species and conservation applications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110199
JournalBiological Conservation
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • Connectivity
  • Conservation
  • Dispersal
  • Grizzly bear
  • Integrated step selection functions
  • Movement
  • Ursus arctos


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