Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Wildlife and Fisheries Science

Major Professor

M.R. Pelton

Committee Members

Bord L. Dearden, John C. Rennie, John W. Philpot


This thesis examines the availability and distribution of potential black bear den trees in Cherokee National Forest (CNF). Potential den trees are defined as any tree greater than 66 cm diameter at breast height (DBH).

Forty potential den trees were located on 44 transects. These transects were selected randomly from United States Forest Service stand inventories. Sampling of these transects resulted in a total of 61 ha sampled in the Hiwassee, Ocoee, and Tellico Ranger Districts of the CNF.

Each stand was categorized by age class and cover type. The age classes were 0-10, 10-30, 30-60, and 60+ years. Cover types were Pine, Pine- Hardwood, Hardwood-Pine, and Hardwood. Cover type was shown to be helpful in predicting the availability of potential den trees. Significantly more (p=0.0003) potential den trees were located in hardwood stands than in the other cover types. Age class did not prove to be a useful predictor of potential den tree availability in this study.

There does not appear to be an absolute shortage of potential den trees in CNF. However, due to past logging practices, many of these trees are clumped in distribution. That is, many times several such trees are found in close proximity. Ground den opportunities in CNF appear to be abundant.

In terms of sheer numbers, wilderness areas and designated old-growth hardwood areas should provide ample denning opportunities for black bears. However, it would be wise to limit access to potential maternity areas forest wide. This would help ensure the successful reproduction of black bears in the southern Appalachians.

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