Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Major Professor

Michael R. Pelton

Committee Members

Boyd L. Dearden, Monty J. Montgomery, James T. Tanner


Seasonal patterns of food utilization by black bears (Ursus americanus) in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park were determined by sampling 86 composites of 646 scats during 1976 and 1977. Five seasonal patterns based on composition of the diet were identified. Major plant food items were grass (Graminae) and other herbaceous material ; squawroot (Conopholis Americana) ; fruits of serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea laevis) , blackberry (Rubus sp.) , huckleberry (Gaylussacia sp.) , blueberry (Vaccinium sp.) , black cherry (Prunus serotina) , fire cherry (P. pennsylvanica) , and sassafras (Sassafras albidum) ; and acorns (Quercus sp.) . Plant foods composed 80% of the diet, and animal remains, mostly insects, were 12%. Crude protein, acid detergent fiber, and lignin content of major food items and corresponding scats were determined, and nutritional value of the seasonal diets was evaluated. The Early Spring diet is of low nutritional value, and bears lose weight while following this pattern of food consumption. The Late Spring, Summer, and Early Fall diets are conducive to healthy growth of bears because they are high in available protein and energy. The Late Fall diet may not contribute to structural growth, but high energy availability in the diet leads to rapid increase of body fat reserves.

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