Off-campus South Dakota State University users: To download campus access theses, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your South Dakota State University ID and password.

Non-South Dakota State University users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this thesis through interlibrary loan.

Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Wildlife and Fisheries Science

First Advisor

Jonathan A. Jenks


american marten, track-plate surveys, bird populations, black hills, south dakota, wyoming


Following a 50-year absence, American marten (Martes americana) were reintroduced into the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1980. Surveys conducted post-reintroduction indicated 2 regions of the Black Hills where sub-populations of marten existed; 1) a 246-km2 region in the northern Black Hills, and 2) a 121-km2 area in the central Black Hills. However, due to their low densities and secretive nature, monitoring efforts for carnivores routinely neglect to identify all individuals in the population, leading to biased estimates of species distribution and abundance. Thus, assessing the efficacy of techniques designed to determine presence of forest carnivores, such as American marten, is crucial for validation of survey results. Furthermore, reintroduced populations face numerous genetic problems resulting from low number of founder individuals. The fragmented nature of the Black Hills marten population could exacerbate bottleneck effects and threaten long-term viability. To improve active management of this species, we evaluated factors affecting range expansion, estimated probability of detecting (p) marten at high (>2 marten/10.2 km2) and low (≤1 marten/10.2 km2) densities, and assessed connectivity and genetic variation among the 2 sub-populations of marten from 2005-2006 in the Black Hills of South Dakota. We used presence-absence data obtained from a track-plate survey in conjunction with results from a saturation-trapping study to derive detection probabilities when marten occurred at high (>2 marten/10.2 km2) and low (! 1 marten/10.2 km2) densities within 8, 10.2 km2 quadrats. Estimated probability of detecting marten in high density quadrats was p = 0.952 (se = 0.046), while the detection probability in low density quadrats was considerably lower (p = 0.333, se = 0.136). Results indicated that failure to account for imperfect detection could lead to an underestimation of marten presence in 15% - 52% of low density quadrats. Additionally, we surveyed and collected habitat data at track-plate boxes (n = 144) in the northeast (NE; n = 56) and central (n = 88) Black Hills to assess habitat characteristics affecting site occupancy (Psi) and detection probabilities at the micro-habitat (e.g., track plate) scale. Marten were detected at 30 of 144 track-plate boxes (NE = 26, Central = 4), yielding occupancy estimates of 0.462 (SE = 0.123) and 0.042 (SE = 0.023) in the northeast and central Black Hills, respectively. Marten occurrence was associated with areas of high precipitation, near prior release locations, and mature stand-aged forests. Detection probabilities were relatively constant across all sites (p = 0.650, SE = 0.067), but were positively associated with ground cover, canopy cover, and spruce dominated habitats. To assess connectivity and gene flow, we collected DNA from 41 marten in the northern (n = 32) and central (n = 9) regions of the Black Hills. Marten in the north showed similar levels of heterozygosity (HO = 0.701, SE = 0.056) and allelic diversity (A = 5.714, SE = 0.612) as marten from the central (HO = 0.825 SE = 0.068; A = 4.429, SE = 0.612) Black Hills. Furthermore, genetic structure (FST) between the 2 populations was low (FST = 0.027), and thus, suggestive of high levels of gene flow. Results also indicated genetic variability was relatively high in comparison to other marten populations in Canada, however, a more thorough comparison to source populations from Idaho and Colorado would be essential for a more formal analysis of viability. We recommend that repeated site-survey data be analyzed to assess detection probabilities when documenting carnivore survey results, and, to facilitate colonization into additional areas, long-term planning include protection of mature forest stands surrounding occupied areas. Additionally, translocation of individuals from high-density areas to suitable unoccupied areas would promote a more rapid expansion of marten into all available habitats and ensure long-term viability of this species in South Dakota.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

American marten -- Black Hills (S.D. and Wyo.)
Wildlife reintroduction -- Black Hills (S.D. and Wyo.)
Bird Populations -- Black Hills (S.D. and Wyo.)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright © 2000 Joshua B. Smith. All rights reserved.