Date of Award
Master of Science
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Michael R. Pelton
Boyd L. Dearden, Frank J. McCormick
This study was conducted on the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park west of U.S. 441. The region is mountainous, with diverse habitats and considerable variation in temperature and precipitation. The major objectives were to describe bear movements and activities using radioisotopes and radiotelemetry, to determine diel activity patterns, and to evaluate selected radioisotopes as possible feces tags.
In September of 1974, two penned bears were injected with 60Co or 134Cs. Results of an earlier study using 109Cd and 144Ce were evaluated. All isotopes appear unsatisfactory as suitable feces tags.
From June through September of 1974 and 1975, 82 bears were captured and injected with 54Mn, 65Zn, or equal amounts of both isotopes. A total of 907 scats were collected from the study area; 83 of these scats were radioactive. The closed oak forest was the most productive association for collecting scats per hour of effort. Nonmaintained trails and the west-facing slope of a major ridge accounted for most radioactively-tagged scats. All tagged scats, except four, were located within 3.5 air-km of a possible bear capture site.
Radiotransmitters were attached to 8 bears in 1975. Three adult male bears were located too infrequently to describe their home range. Summer home range size of adult females averaged 499 ha (1233 a). Two adult males had an average summer home range of 614 ha (1515 a). Home range size of one subadult male was 517 ha (1276 a). The home of each bear overlapped with the home range of at least one other bear.
Extended movements of two subadult males were recorded during the study. One transplanted panhandler bear was later killed 67 air-km from the release point. Another bear, initially captured in Georgia, was recaptured in 1974 in the study area. Movement of this bear was over 72 air-km.
Bears were most active during diurnal periods. Activity peaked between 0600 to 1000 hr and again between 1500 to 1900 hr. Activity was lowest between 2300 to 0400 hr.
Bears appear to use depressions as bedding sites. In most instances these depressions were created by uprooted trees. These beds are probably used during periods of low activity in the afternoon and at night.
Eubanks, Alton Louis, "Movements and Activities of the Black Bear (Ursus americanus) in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. " Master's Thesis, University of Tennessee, 1976.