Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Wildlife and Fisheries Science

Major Professor

Michael R. Pelton

Committee Members

Ralph W. Dimmick, Boyd L. Dearden, Edward R. Buckner


A radiotelemetry study to determine seasonal movements and habitat utilization of black bears (Ursus americanus) in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was undertaken from June 1980 to May 1982. Annual home range size in a year of poor hard mast production was 119 km2 and 13 km2 for males and females, respectively, and 36 km2 and 6 km2 in a year of good hard mast production. Bear movements were governed by seasonal food availability. Bears exhibited an affinity to summer home ranges but traveled to widely dispersed fall ranges. Seasonal range shifts were more evident in years of poor hard mast than good hard mast. Eleven of 14 radiocollared bears traveled extensively in fall 1980, a poor mast year. Three of 6 females and every one of 8 males traveled to various parts of North Carolina; bears spent time in the Park, the Cherokee National Forest, the Nantahala National Forest, and private lands adjoining these federal lands. Three males were killed illegally, 1 was hunter-harvested, and the 7 other bears returned to the study area from fall 1980 ranges. Only 1 bear traveled widely in fall 1981, and no radiocollared bears were killed. Bears used different forest cover types non-randomly during different seasons. Oak forests are extremely important to bear survival in the Southern Appalachians. Abundant spring fruits, summer berries, and fall hard mast make the oak types critical habitat for bears. Bears regularly crossed roads and trails according to their spatial arrangement in their home ranges. Limiting road access into bear range is important to bear survival.

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