Date of Award

12-1997

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Wildlife and Fisheries Science

Major Professor

Michael R. Pelton

Committee Members

David A. Buehler, John C. Waller, Edward R. Buckner

Abstract

Understanding energetic potential of habitat patches is important for management designed to provide adequate habitat for wildlife species. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) has a high density of black bears that have been studied intensively from 1968-1997; habitats within the Park are relatively undisturbed, and similar vegetative cover types can be found throughout the southern Appalachian mountains. Black bear reproduction in the Park has been correlated to hard mast production, however little work has been done to assess the importance of soft mast. Geographic Information System (GIS) based habitat use models have been developed for bears in the Park, yet the importance of foods in determining habitat selection, and the possibility of sexual habitat segregation due to food availability have not yet been determined.

The primary objectives of the study included estimation of the location, timing, and amount of caloric production by 19 important black bear foods and determination of the significance of caloric production by mast type, season, overstory vegetation type, and plant species. Secondary objectives were to test for correlation of bear habitat use with estimated caloric production from mast, and to test for sexual segregation of habitats based on caloric production. This study was limited to the northwest quadrant of GSMNP during 1995.

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