Date of Award

6-1982

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Forestry

Major Professor

Michael R. Pelton

Committee Members

James Byford, Ed Clebsch, Boyd Dearden

Abstract

Radio-collars were fitted on 22 black bears captured on a 155 km2 study area in the northwest portion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, between June 1978 and December 1979.

Activity monitors in radio-collars indicated that bears exhibited crepuscular daily patterns of activity which were modified seasonally; activity was highest during the day in all seasons but night time activity was highest during fall. Most seasonal variations in diet patterns of activity are attributed to changes in foraging patterns. Monthly activity levels were lowest in the postdenning months of April and May and the predenning months of November and December; activity was highest in August and may be a reflection of the influences of breeding. Neither cloud cover nor precipitation affected activity but bears displayed depressed activity at high temperatures. Subadult and yearling females were the most active group overall; adult males were the least active group.

The convex polygon method was used to calculate home range sizes. The fact that home ranges of males (32.1 km2 ) were larger than those of females (5.2 km2) reflects the larger size of males and their instability in the population in the subadult and early adult years (<5 years). Larger home ranges in fall than spring/summer reflects increased feeding activity prior to denning.

Linear movements by 7 bears were termed extensive because they were large in relation to their normal home range. None of the 7 bears were over 5 years old; 6 of the 7 bears were male, 2 of the movements terminated with the bear being shot. Six bears (28%) were located outside Park boundaries at some time during the study and neither roads nor reservoirs appeared to act as barriers to bear movement. Hourly travel rates were greatest between the hours of 0600 and 2200.

Analysis of habitat relationships with the computer based IMGRID system revealed that bears preferred areas where mast trees were abundant. Females showed stronger preference for areas of mast trees than subadults; and, seasonally, areas of mast trees were preferred during summer and fall. No overall preference for areas of heath abundance was found but females did exhibit preference for these areas. Bears avoided areas within 200m of roads but did not avoid the area around a trail. Females avoided roads more intensely than males; adults showed stronger avoidance of roads than subadults; and, seasonally, the strongest avoidance of roads was during fall. The results of analyses implicate the importance of experience and social organization in habitat utilization of bears.

Although IMGRID is a powerful tool for analysis of geographically based information, it appears that other methods will provide a more robust analysis of the dynamics of habitat utilization.

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