Date of Award

12-1982

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Wildlife and Fisheries Science

Major Professor

Micharl R. Pelton

Committee Members

Boyd L. Dearden, Dave K. Smith

Abstract

Forty-five captures of 28 black bears (Ursus americanus) were made in Cherokee National Forest (CNF), Tennessee between June 1978 and December 1979. Twenty-two bears were fitted with radio-collars.

Bears exhibited a crepuscular activity pattern which was modified seasonally. Higher levels of activity during the day in summer and at night in fall is attributed to bears feeding on available berry and acorn crops. Females with cubs were the most active sex-age group; this is likely related to the high energy demands of raising cubs.

Larger home ranges of males (30.1 km2) than females (11.6 km2) reflects the greater mobility and less attachment to specific areas of males; their greater mobility likely enhances their reproductive success with females in the population. Use of larger areas in the fall than in spring/summer reflects the more active feeding by bears prior to winder denning. High home range overlap among bears likely indicates the relatedness of bears in the study area.

Radio-telemetry data indicate that bears were rarely located on private land. The Tellico Bear Sanctuary and the areas immediately adjacent to it accounted for 96% of radio locations. Short-term movements by subadult males to Nantahala National Forest, North Carolina, likely reflected exploratory movement by these animals. No bears were documented moving to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park; however, 3 bears radio-tracked in a concurrent study in the Park moved to CNF for brief periods. Subadult bears were located in hunted areas more frequently than any other sex-age group. No bears were killed illegally during the study; however, 4 subadult bears were killed within 2 km from the Tellico Bear Sanctuary. Movement and reproductive data collected during this study indicated that the bear sanctuary is providing refuge for a breeding nucleus of females while allowing for dispersal of subadults into surrounding areas.

The IMGRID computer system was used to determine habitat utilization. Pine vegetation types were preferred during all seasons; this is attributed to the abundant berry crops and scattered large oaks in these types. The oak-hickory vegetation type was used more in fall than in any other season due to available mast in this type. Generally, mesic hemlock, cove hardwood, and oak-hickory types were used less than expected. Less food (berries and acorns), greater access, and fewer tree dens are probable reasons the lower elevation hemlock and cove hardwood types were used less.

Telemetry data indicated that bears did not cross the Tellico-Robbinsville highway. An avoidance of roads by female bears and by all bears during fall was determined and reinforces the supposition that bears avoid roads; their avoidance is like related to the degree of harassment of bears by people.

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