Date of Award

5-1991

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Wildlife and Fisheries Science

Major Professor

Michael R. Pelton

Committee Members

Ralph W. Dimmick, Neil Greenberg, Edward R. Buckner

Abstract

The objectives of the study were to 1) determine patterns of habitat utilization of female black bears, 2) identify timber management disturbances that affect habitat use of female black bears, and 3) integrate and summarize the research conducted on Harmon Den Bear Sanctuary since 1982. Harmon Den Bear Sanctuary is a 5971-ha area along the Tennessee-North Carolina state line. This sanctuary was established in 1971 with the purpose of protecting a core breeding group of female black bears.

From 7 June 1988 to 30 June 1989 16 bears were captured 21 times. The captures of these 16 individuals brought the total number of individual bears handled within Harmon Den Bear Sanctuary since 1982 to 61. Of the 61 captures, 29 of the bears were females, 18 of which were adults.

During the 1988-1989 field seasons, 16 home ranges on 11 adult female black bears were constructed using the Minimum Convex Polygon method. Linear Regression demonstrated that an increase in the size of a bear's home range was positively correlated to the amount of area silviculturally clearcut within the home range. Using linear regression it was also demonstrated that the size of the adult female's home range was negatively correlated to the proportion of time bears spent within the Harmon Den Bear Sanctuary. The amount of time bears spent within the sanctuary during 1988 averaged 81% (range: 47-100%), and in 1989 averaged 68% (range: 19-100%).

Habitat use analysis between the 75 habitat plots gathered from bear locations and the 75 randomly located habitat plots demonstrated that bears selected for small- and large-sawtimber overstories throughout the year; this wa not true, however, for bears that demonstrated resting behavior. Bears exhibiting resting behavior chose areas favoring the seedling-sapling size class.

The effects of habitat disturbances were determined through Repeated Measures analysis using 6 types of possible disturbance. The possible disturbances included abandoned roads, recreational vehicle roads, logging roads, secondary roads, an interstate highway, and clearcuts. The analysis demonstrated that bears were found closer than expected to both the interstate and logging roads, and farther than expected from secondary roads. Comparison between ranges of bear plot locations and random plots demonstrated that a 352 m and a 314 m strip of land along the interstate and secondary roads, respectively, did not contain any locations of bears. This area of no visitation was not observed along logging roads.

Nine of 21 females bears using the sanctuary died; 6 deaths were caused by legal hunting, 2 by illegal hunting, and 1 by car collision. Annual number of mortalities for tagged adult female bears have ranged from 0 to 4 bears.

The decrease in the amount of time bears are spending within the protection of the sanctuary is possibly the most important impact on adult female black bears studied within Harmon Den Bear Sanctuary. It is this decrease in time spent within the sanctuary that could increase the opportunity for hunters to harvest individuals considered part of the core breeding group.

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