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Foods and Habitat of Black Bears in Southeastern North Carolina

Author(s): J. Larry Landers, Robert J. Hamilton, A. Sydney Johnson and R. Larry


Marchinton
Source: The Journal of Wildlife Management, Vol. 43, No. 1 (Jan., 1979), pp. 143-153
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Wildlife Society
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FOODS AND HABITAT OF BLACK BEARS IN
SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA
J. LARRY LANDERS,
School of Forest Resources, University
of
Georgia, Athens, GA 306021
ROBERT J. HAMILTON, North Carolina Wildlife Resources
Commission, Raleigh,
NC 276112
A. SYDNEY JOHNSON, Institute of Natural Resources and School of Forest
Resources, University
of
Georgia, Athens,
GA 30602
R. LARRY MARCHINTON, School of Forest Resources, University
of
Georgia, Athens, GA 30602
Abstract: Foods and habitat use of black bears
(Ursus americanus)
in the Coastal Plain of southeastern
North Carolina were determined from 732 fecal
droppings
and contents of 28
stomachs,
and from radio-
monitoring
10 bears.
Major
habitat
components
were
(1)
a
variety
of habitats
producing
seasonal
foods;
(2) extensive,
inaccessible areas
(Carolina bays,
hardwood
swamps)
for
denning;
and
(3) escape
cover for
bears hunted with
dogs (large swamps).
Carolina
bays
contributed most natural foods
(berries
and suc-
culent
plants), except
in
spring
when bears fed in
swamps
on arrow-arum
(Peltandra virginica)
leaves and
in fall when
they
fed in
swamps
on black
gum (Nyssa sylvatica)
or on sand
ridges
on oak
(Quercus spp.)
mast. Hunters had maintained sites baited with corn for
many years,
and corn from bait
piles
or
agricultural
fields was used
by
bears
throughout
the
year. Major pre-denning
foods were
high
in
nitrogen-free
extract
and
fats,
while
post-denning
foods were
high
in
protein.
Summer fruits were
high
in
sugars
and other
carbohydrates.
Bears in this
region apparently
need
large
areas with a
variety
of habitat
types
to meet
annual food and cover
requirements.
J.
WILDL. MANAGE. 43(1):143-153
Little has been
reported
on habitat re-
quirements
of black bears in southeast-
ern Coastal Plain habitats. Published
food habits data are based on 56 fecal
droppings (scats)
from Dare
County,
North Carolina
(Hardy 1974)
and con-
tents of 13 stomachs from northern Flor-
ida
(Harlow 1961). Hardy (1974)
obtained
42 locations of 4 radio-monitored bears
and related them to habitat use. Our
study
relates seasonal habitat use to for-
aging, denning,
and
escape
behavior in
the Coastal Plain.
Financial
support
was
provided by
the
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Com-
mission
(Federal
Aid
Project W-57-6B)
and the
University
of
Georgia.
We are
grateful
to
private landowners, personnel
of Bladen Lakes State
Forest,
and
sports-
men for their
cooperation throughout
this
study.
We
appreciate
the assistance of
many students, technicians,
and field-
workers.
STUDY AREA
The
study
area in Bladen
County,
North Carolina consisted of
approximate-
ly 56,000
ha of
poorly
drained
flatwoods,
swamps,
and
bogs interspersed
with ex-
cessively
drained sand
ridges (Fig. 1).
Elevation varies from 9 to 30
m,
with re-
lief of less than 1%.
Average
annual rain-
fall is 135
cm;
snowfall is rare and did not
occur
during
this
study.
Annual mean
maximum and minimum
temperatures
are 38 C and -12 C.
About
43,000
ha were in
private
own-
ership
and
13,000
ha were in Bladen
Lakes State Forest. About 45% of the
pri-
vate land was owned
by
timber
compa-
nies. Nonforested lands included
5,200
ha of residential and farm lands.
Major
crops
were
corn, soy beans,
and blueber-
ries.
Carolina
bays composed
44% of the
area
(about 24,600 ha).
These
shallow,
1
Present address: Southlands
Experiment Forest,
Bainbridge,
GA 31717.
2 Present address: School of Forest
Resources,
University
of
Georgia, Athens,
GA 30602.
J.
Wildl. Manage. 43(1):1979
143
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144 BLACK BEAR IN NORTH CAROLINA Landers et al.
,
xt
N&&
S R~
i~ RAll
2 K
Fig.
1. Aerial view of a
portion
of the
study area, Bladen
County,
North Carolina, showing typical
habitat associations.
BL =
bay lake, CB = Carolina
bay,
HS = hardwood
swamp,
SR = sand
ridge.
elliptic depressions (Fig. 1),
of unknown
(possibly meteoric) origin,
are common
from southeastern North Carolina to
southern
Georgia (Murray 1961:512-519).
Most
bays
on the
study
area were
densely
vegetated
with
evergreen woody plants
and contained little or no
water,
but un-
vegetated bay
lakes
composed
about 700
ha. Trees were
scattered,
and shrubs mat-
ted with laurel
greenbrier (Smilax
laur-
ifolia)
and related
species
formed unbro-
ken thickets.
(Scientific
names of
plants
are from Radford et al.
1968.)
Character-
istic trees were
pond pine (Pinus
sero-
tina),
sweet
bay (Magnolia virginiana),
red
bay (Persea borbonia),
red
maple
(Acer rubrum),
and
loblolly bay (Gor-
donia
lasianthus).
The shrub
layer
was
dominated
by
fetterbush
(Lyonia lucida),
and also contained deciduous
holly (Ilex
spp.), winterberry (Ilex verticillata),
blue
haw
(Viburnum nudum), pepperbush
(Clethra alnifolia),
and titi
(Cyrilla
ra-
cemiflora).
The
poorly
drained
peat
soil
was covered
only by
litter and scattered
mosses and ferns.
At
slightly higher
elevations
(at
the
pe-
riphery
of
bays
and on lower
slopes)
soils
were somewhat better
drained,
and
veg-
etation was influenced
by
fire. Slash
pine
(Pinus elliottii)
dominated the
overstory,
and common
understory plants
were
switchcane
(Arundinaria gigantea),
sweet
gallberry (Ilex coriacea),
blueberries
(Vaccinium spp.),
and huckleberries
(Gaylussacia spp.).
Dry upland
sites with
sandy
and
loamy-sand
soils
(sand ridges)
made
up
33% of the area.
Except
where
planted
to
slash
pine (about
one-third of the sand
J.
Wildl. Manage. 43(1):1979
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BLACK BEAR IN NORTH CAROLINA *Landers et al. 145
ridge habitat), they supported longleaf
pine (P. palustris)
and mixed scrub oaks
such as
turkey
oak
(Quercus laevis),
sand
post
oak
(Q. margaretta),
and
blackjack
oak
(Q. marilandica).
Shrubs were
sparse
and included hawthorn
(Crataegus spp.),
sparkleberry (Vaccinium arboreum),
blackberry (Rubus cuneifolius),
and es-
pecially
on the lower
slopes,
small
gall-
berry (Ilex glabra),
wax
myrtle (Myrica
cerifera),
and
bayberry (M. heterophyl-
la).
Yellow
jessamine (Gelsemium sem-
pervirens)
and muscadine
(Vitis
rotun-
difolia)
vines also were
present.
Groundstory vegetation
included
clumps
of
legumes (Fabaceae)
and
grasses (Po-
aceae).
A hardwood
swamp system,
over 2 km
wide in
places,
bisected and made
up
14% of the
study
area. Water levels
fluc-
tuated about 1
m,
with low water
during
spring
and
early
summer. Trees such as
black
gum,
bald
cypress (Taxodium
dis-
tichum),
red
maple,
and red
bay
formed
a
closed, multilayered canopy.
Common
shrubs were
pepperbush, titi,
and fetter-
bush; berry-producing
shrubs were rare.
Vines, mostly greenbriers,
were com-
monly
associated with scattered
clumps
of shrubs. The soil was covered
by
de-
caying plant matter,
and herbs were rare.
Openings
from timber harvests on wet
sites
supported
stands of
sedges (Cyper-
aceae),
lizard tail
(Saururus cernuus),
bur-reed
(Sparganium americanum),
and
arrow-arum.
The bear
population,
estimated from
the ratio of
tagged
to
untagged
bears in
the
harvest,
was
approximately
50
(Ham-
ilton
1978).
Bears were hunted with
dogs
on
private lands;
bear
hunting
was not
allowed in Bladen Lakes State Forest.
Bait stations
supplied
with corn had been
maintained for
many years by hunting
clubs on
private
lands
throughout
the
study
area and were used as release
points
for
dogs
when
hunting
bear and
deer
(Odocoileus virginianus).
METHODS
Food habits were determined from
stomach contents of 28 bears and from
732
seats.
Game trails were walked
daily
to collect
seat
samples; freshly deposited
seats
were taken as found
during
other
field work. One of the
investigators
at-
tended 9
hunts,
and hunters
using
the
study
area and
adjacent properties
were
contacted
daily during
3
hunting
seasons
(1974-76). They supplied
stomach con-
tents from harvested bears and informa-
tion on routes of those that
escaped
while
being
chased.
Food items in stomachs and scats were
separated
with
sieves,
hand-sorted and
measured to the nearest 1.0
em3
by
water
displacement.
The
aggregate percentage
method
(Martin
et al.
1946)
was used to
calculate the volumetric
percentage
of
food items. Chemical
composition
of
fresh
specimens
of
important
food items
was determined
by
the State
Chemist,
Georgia Department
of
Agriculture,
At-
lanta.
Information was obtained on
ripening
dates of fruits and
availability
of succu-
lent new
growth
of certain
plants.
Habitat
types
were
fairly
distinct
(Fig. 1);
and im-
portant plant foods,
most of which were
habitat-specific,
were
assigned
to
appro-
priate
habitats to obtain a crude measure
of the relative contribution of each
major
habitat to the annual diet.
Radio-monitored bears
provided
infor-
mation on habitat use for
foraging
and
denning. Twenty-one
bears were
cap-
tured in box
traps
at baited sites. Ten
bears
(6 males,
4
females)
were fitted
with collars
containing
radio transmit-
ters.
Techniques
for
immobilization, age
determination, and telemetry
were de-
scribed
by
Hamilton and Marchinton
J. Wildl.
Manage. 43(1):1979
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146 BLACK BEAR IN NORTH CAROLINA *Landers et al.
Table 1.
Major
foods of black bears in Bladen
County,
North Carolina as revealed
by analysis
of 732 scats collected
monthly
from
May
1974 to
May
1976.
Aggregate percentagea
Jan
Feb Mar
Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep
Oct Nov Dec
Food item (8)b (5) (12) (61) (48) (19) (56) (46) (60) (125) (224) (68)
Corn 25 60 65 43 14 45 31 27 22 46 66 66
Smilax
spp. (fruit)
50 39 25 1 3 19
(stems
and
leaves)
10 18 58 10 3 1 1 1 3
Peltandra
virginica (stems)
21 10
Animal matter &beeswax 1 7 7 1 11 2 6 2 1
Inner bark of trees 2 2 2 1
Forbs
(stems)
2 2 2
Myrica heterophylla (flowers)
1
Persea borbonia
(leaves)
1 1 3
Arundinaria
gigantea (stems)
2 7
Vaccinium
spp. (fruit)
27 1
(leaves)
3
Rubus
spp. (fruit)
4 4
Gaylussacia spp. (fruit)
1 34 18
Grass (stems,
leaf
blades)
3 2 2 7 1
Ilex spp. (leaves)
1 1
Vitis
rotundifolia (fruit)
2 2
Viburnum nudum
(fruit)
1
Magnolia virginiana (fruit)
1
Ilex coriacea
(fruit)
2 48 64 5 1
Ilex
glabra (fruit)
11
Nyssa sylvatica (fruit)
45 11 6
(leaves)
1
1
Quercus spp. (fruit)
12 1 17 1
Ilex verticillata
(fruit)
6
a
Percentage
values are rounded to the nearest whole number, and those less than 0.51 are omitted.
b
Number of seats in
sample.
(1978).
Bears were located
daily
if
pos-
sible,
and
periodically
individual bears
were monitored for 24-hour
periods
with
locations determined
every
2 hours.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Food and Nutrition
Plant Foods.-Plant material made
up
most of the diet each month
(Tables 1, 2;
Fig. 2).
Corn was a
major
item in the diet
every
month and was the
principal
food
in our
samples during
7 months of the
year;
it was taken most
during
the fall
when hunters
replenished
bait stations
regularly.
Bears that did not den contin-
ued to use bait corn
through
March. Al-
though
in scat
analysis
it was
impossible
to
separate
corn taken at bait sites from
that obtained from
agricultural fields,
in-
tensive use of corn in summer coincided
with
ripening
in
agricultural fields,
movement of radio-monitored bears into
these
fields,
and increased
sign
of bear
activity
there. Conditions similar to those
on the
study
area
(corn farming
and hunt-
er-maintained bait
stations)
exist over
much of the North Carolina Coastal
Plain,
and
previous
studies
(Barick 1970,
unpublished prog. rep.,
N.C. Wildl. Re-
sour.
Comm., Raleigh)
indicate that corn
is a
major
food of bears
throughout
the
area. The
presence
of bait stations
no
doubt altered the behavior of
bears,
but
use of these food sources was a well-es-
tablished behavioral
pattern.
Greenbriers
provided
the most
impor-
tant natural foods
during
5 months of the
J. Wildl. Manage. 43(1):1979
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BLACK BEAR IN NORTH CAROLINA *Landers et al. 147
Table 2.
Major
foods of black bears in Bladen
County,
North Carolina as revealed
by analysis
of 28 stomachs
collected
during
1974-76.
Aggregate percentagea
Food itemAu
Oct Nov Dec
Food item
(2) (4) (7) (15)
Corn 27 75 34 83
Smilax
spp. (leaves)
18
Yellow
jackets
31
Ants 8
Honey
bees 4 1
Beeswax 20 18
Birds 2
Vitis
rotundifolia
(fruit) 1
Gaylussacia spp. (fruit)
11
Persea borbonia
(leaves)
3
Quercus spp. (fruit)
27 5
Nyssa sylvatica (fruit)
16 12
Forbs 3
a
Percentage
values treated as in Table 1.
b
Number of stomachs.
year.
The berries were the most consis-
tently
used natural food in late winter.
During
the
post-denning period (late
March
through May)
bears fed
heavily
on
tender new
growth
of arrow-arum and
greenbrier (Table 1).
Intensive use of
vegetative
material in
spring
is consistent
with
findings
in other studies
(Tisch
1961,
Hatler
1967).
Bears then showed
less interest in corn
provided
than at oth-
er times of the
year
when
they
were ac-
tive;
avoidance of baits
during
this time
has been noted
previously (Knudsen
1961).
The summer diet was
primarily fleshy
fruits, particularly huckleberries,
blue-
berries,
and
blackberry, although
switch
cane and leaves of
woody plants
were
eaten. As summer fruits became less
available, they
were
replaced
in the diet
by early
fall fruits such as sweet
gallber-
ry,
and to a lesser extent
muscadine,
blue
haw,
and sweet
bay.
Sweet
gallberry
con-
tributed a
greater portion
of a
monthly
sample
than
any
other
naturally
occur-
ring species.
Berries of small
gallberry,
SOT
,
'60
-5o
-20
io
-o
ANIMAL M AT TER
.....
:~ ~ ~ ~ .....
...-...,-.,...:..........
IllMONT
LAJ
......
.d-F H A MRJ JM SOSNT
moN0.3
-LLJ?~
60I?
10 :.;i
.*..'**.. .....
....
0 :. ?:-
ANIMAL MATTER':
i FM AM J AN
::-:. MONTH:
Fig.
2.
Major components
of the diet of black bears in
Bladen
County,
North Carolina based on
analysis
of 732
scats.
though abundant,
were avoided until
January, possibly
because of their bitter-
ness.
Many persisted
on the
plants
through spring.
During
the
pre-denning period (Octo-
ber-November)
bears
depended heavily
on mast from trees. Black
gum
was abun-
dant in fall 1974 and formed 67% of Oc-
tober
scats,
but it was scarce
during
fall
1975 and constituted
only
26%. Con-
versely,
oak mast was scarce in 1974 and
contributed
only
6% in November
scats,
and the moderate
crop
of 1975 resulted
in a 4-fold increase in use.
Winterberry
fruits, although ripening
in
September,
were not taken until
December, suggest-
ing
low
desirability.
Animal Foods.-Animal foods in scats
(Table 1)
were
mostly
beeswax and co-
lonial insects
(Hymenoptera), especially
ants
(Formicidae),
which formed the
J.
Wildl.
Manage. 43(1):1979
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148 BLACK BEAR IN NORTH CAROLINA -Landers et al.
Table 3. Nutrient
composition
of
major plant foodsa of black bears in Bladen
County,
North Carolina.
%
by dry weight
Carbohydrates
Crude Crude
Food item protein fiber NFE Fat Ash Ca P
Cornb 9.3 2.1 71.2 4.2 1.3 0.01 0.29
Smilax
laurifolia
fruit
pulp
2.8 13.6 73.2 1.3 3.0 0.46 0.06
stems and leaves 25.7 12.5 44.5 1.4 7.9 0.03 0.52
Peltandra
virginica
leaves and stems 33.3 12.9 31.2 3.1 12.2 0.16 0.61
Persea borbonia
leaves 10.0 27.9 51.6 1.9 2.6 0.07 0.13
Vaccinium stamineum 5.8 14.8 69.2 4.9 2.5 0.13 0.10
leaves 12.3 17.5 60.6 1.4 2.7 0.09 0.16
Rubus
cuneifoliusc
13.1 24.7 47.1 8.0 3.4 0.31 0.17
Gaylussacia frondosa
1.9 16.6 68.7 1.0 1.0 0.31 0.06
G. dumosa 2.5 14.5 71.5 1.1 1.1 0.47 0.07
Vitis
rotundifoliae
6.0 19.9 50.7 1.8 3.1 0.53 0.13
Ilex coriacea 3.4 19.3 56.7 10.8 2.3 0.71 0.10
I.
glabra
4.9 12.8 70.6 3.4 2.2 0.94 0.11
Nyssa sylvatica
fruit
pulp
4.1 8.0 69.2 1.5 7.6 0.61 0.08
Quercus margaretta
6.3 20.9 60.1 10.7 2.0 0.37 0.09
Ilex verticillatad 6.1 15.6 70.6 5.1 2.6 0.13 0.10
a
Samples
were whole, ripe
fruit unless otherwise
designated; percentages
are
averages
from 3
specimens
of each item.
b Data from
King (1940).
c
Data from Landers et al.
(1977).
d Data from Wainio and Forbes
(1941).
greatest
volume in
April (7%), May (2%),
and
July (4%).
Yellow
jackets (Vespula
spp.)
and
honey
bees
(Apis melifera)
oc-
curred in
only
small amounts in seats but
occurred in substantial amounts in stom-
achs in certain months
(Table 2).
Beetles
(Coleoptera)
occurred in all months but
contributed little to the diet.
Comparing
scats with stomach
contents,
it
appeared
that insects and beeswax were under-
represented
in scats.
Remains of vertebrates occurred
only
occasionally
and
may
have been carrion.
Trace amounts of rabbits
(Sylvilagus
spp.)
were found in
April. During June,
opossum (Didelphis virginianus)
hair
composed
about 1% of the volume. The
most
commonly occurring
vertebrate re-
mains were of white-tailed
deer,
found as
traces
during May
and October and form-
ing
2% of the
July
diet. Bird remains oc-
curred as a trace in
1
stomach in
August,
and
composed
2% of the volume in No-
vember stomachs.
Nutrition.--Chemical
composition
of
important plant
foods is
presented
in Ta-
ble 3.
Wackernagel (1961:98-99)
stated
that for
healthy growth
of
omnivores,
in-
cluding bears,
the diet must contain
about 15% crude
protein.
The
only plant
foods with this much
protein
that were
consumed
by
bears were
arrow-arum,
greenbrier shoots,
and
possibly
some
grasses;
so animal matter
may play
an im-
portant
nutritional role. Animal matter
consumed is
high
in
protein, especially
insects such as ants which contain over
50%
protein (Southwood 1973:7).
Com-
pared
with the recommended
diet,
food
items other than animal matter were low
in calcium and
phosphorus,
and
high
in
crude fiber.
J.
Wildl.
Manage. 43(1):1979
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BLACK BEAR IN NORTH CAROLINA* Landers et al. 149
Succulent
plant parts
consumed in
spring
were lowest in
nitrogen-free
ex-
tract
(NFE)
of
any major
foods in the diet.
Though
on a
dry
basis
they
were
high
in
crude
protein, they
contained 90%
water;
large
volumes would have been neces-
sary
for an
adequate
diet. Data on sea-
sonal
weight cycles
indicate that bears
lose
weight during spring (Jonkel
and
Cowan
1971,
Beeman and Pelton
1978).
Decline in use of bait corn in
spring
seems to indicate that succulent
vegeta-
tion is
preferred.
Intake of
high protein
foods in
spring may
be associated with
recovery
from inanition
during denning
and
may
be
advantageous
for cubs and
lactating
females. Protein intake de-
clined as succulent
plants
in the diet de-
creased, except
for
irregular
intake of an-
imal matter.
Summer fruits also contained much
water
(80-85%)
but on a
dry
basis were
high
in NFE and moderate in fat and ash.
Sugar content, high
in summer
fruits,
is
related to black bear
preference
for some
foods
(Radwan 1969)
and is
important
in
nutrition and metabolism. Summer fruits
were
usually
consistent food
sources,
but
in 1976 a late
April
frost and a
dry
sum-
mer resulted in low
yields, especially
of
sweet
gallberry.
The
period
of intake of
high energy
foods included the
breeding
period (June-July).
Black bear
productiv-
ity
has been correlated with
production
of fruits in Alaska
(Hatler 1967),
Montana
(Jonkel
and Cowan
1971:49),
and Min-
nesota
(Rogers 1976).
Fall mast contained at least 20% less
water than other
major plant foods,
offer-
ing
a more concentrated
energy
source
rich in fats and NFE.
Irregular
mast
pro-
duction
by
black
gum
and oaks
may
re-
sult in nutritional
deficiency
in
years
when
yields
of both are low. Data of Bee-
man and Pelton
(1978) suggested
a cor-
relation between hard mast
production
._,VOLUME
OF
NATURAL FOOD
o--o LOCATIONS OF
ACTIVE BEARS
10 c
CAROLINA
/
- BAY
C O
/
,r
1
o
// '/
I
.
;
/
'-
o
A
M J J A
S
N D
O.S
WA MP
0
o
,o,
10
"
SAND
z
w RIDGE
Q50
,P,,
o-.
S J J
A
S
ON
D
Fig.
3.
Monthly
locations of active radio-monitored bears
by
habitat and
monthly
contribution
(estimated)
of each
habitat to the natural diet
(percentage
of total volume of
natural foods in
scats.)
and bear
productivity
in the
Smoky
Mountains of Tennessee and North Car-
olina. Fetal
growth
occurs
during
late
fall, shortly
after the mast
season,
and the
health of cubs is
dependent upon
fall
condition of the female
(Rogers 1976).
Corn too is a source of concentrated
energy, being very high
in NFE. Its
year-
round
availability
on the
study
area no
doubt has contributed
substantially
to the
nutritional welfare of the bear
popula-
tion, especially during years
of
poor
mast
production.
It also
may help
reduce the
incentive for bears to move into
agricul-
J.
Wildl. Manage. 43(1):1979
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150 BLACK BEAR IN NORTH CAROLINA* Landers et al.
Table 4.
Sex, age, period
of
radio-monitoring,
and
range during monitoring
of 10 black
bears, Bladen
County,
North
Carolina.
Range
Age
Period of
during
Sex
(years) monitoring monitoring (ha)
M
4Y2 8
Jun-18
Oct 1974
11
May-late Jul
1975 18,370
M
31/2
12
Aug-11 Sep
1974
15 May-29 Oct 1975 4,588
M
71/2
30
Sep
1974-1
Jun
1975
4,363
M 2 7 Dec 1974-21
May
1975a
M 2 7-28
Jan
1976 387
M 3 15
Jan-9
Feb 1976 483
F 2 27
Aug
1974-30
Jun
1975
1,604
F 6 15 Nov 1974-3
May
1975 139
F 22 29
Sep
1975-31
May
1976 847
F 6 10 Dec 1975-9
Apr
1976 520
a
Located
irregularly
because transmitter functioned
intermittently.
tural and residential areas where
they
would create
depredation problems
while
seeking
food.
Habitat Use
Radio-monitored bears
(Table 4)
were
located
1,650
times.
During
68 24-hour
periods
individual bears were located
every
2 hours.
Ranges
of males tended
to be
greater
than those of
females;
the
largest
exceeded
18,000
ha. Locations
of radio-monitored
bears,
food
utilized,
and
feeding sign
indicated relative use
of various habitats
(Fig. 3). Bay lakes,
residential
areas,
most
agricultural
fields, pine plantations,
and
sparsely veg-
etated
portions
of sand
ridges
were used
little
by
bears. These habitats made
up
nearly
a fourth of the
study
area but ac-
counted for less than 1% of the locations
of radio-monitored bears.
Three habitat
components
were rec-
ognized: (1) foraging
habitat
during
sea-
sons when bears were
active, (2) denning
habitat
during winter,
and
(3) escape
hab-
itat, especially during legal hunting
sea-
sons.
Foraging
Habitat.-Carolina
bays
re-
ceived
greatest
use
by
bears and contrib-
uted the
greatest
volume of food to the
annual diet
(Fig. 3).
Fruits that
composed
most of the diet from
June through Sep-
tember were from
species
associated
pri-
marily
with
margins
of Carolina
bays
and
lower
slopes
of sand
ridges.
Bear trails
were
especially
evident in these areas.
Only
a few bears were radio-monitored
at
any given time,
and because bears
often rested and
foraged
in different hab-
itats,
active bears located
by telemetry
were not
necessarily feeding.
Neverthe-
less,
seasonal
peaks
in
activity
in habitats
did
correspond
to
intensity
of
feeding
in
those habitats as indicated
by
food habits
data
(Fig. 3).
Telemetry, trapping,
and track count
data indicated that movement
during
late
winter was
primarily by young
males
which did not den for extended
periods
of time
(Hamilton
and Marchinton
1978).
The few scats found
during
this
period
indicated that native foods
(greenbrier,
gallberry,
and
acorns)
were taken
mainly
from
bays
and sand
ridges
and dwindled
J.
Wildl.
Manage. 43(1):1979
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BLACK BEAR IN NORTH CAROLINA* Landers et al. 151
in use from
January
to
March,
as intake
of corn from bait
piles
increased.
After
emergence
from dens in
spring,
bears moved
mainly
in
swamps
and
bays
and fed
heavily
on arrow-arum and
greenbrier
from these habitats.
Activity
in
bays
increased in
May
and remained
high through July (Fig. 3).
The bulk of
the diet
during
this time was
comprised
of foods from this habitat
(greenbrier,
blueberry,
and
huckleberry) (Table 1).
Signs
of bears
feeding
on insects in de-
caying stumps
and
ground
cavities on
sand
ridges
were seen
frequently
in
spring
and summer.
During
this
time,
bears caused much
damage
to
apiaries
on
the sand
ridges
if hives were not elevated
on
specially
constructed
platforms
or en-
closed
by
electric fences.
Damage
to
commercial blueberries was seen
only
once, possibly
because
they ripened
si-
multaneously
with wild fruits in areas re-
mote from human
activity.
In
August,
radio-monitored bears were
most active in corn
fields,
but all
major
habitats were used and food habits data
indicated continued
heavy
use of
bays.
Foods
produced mainly
in
bays (sweet
gallberry
and
huckleberries)
formed 66%
of the diet. In
September,
radio-moni-
tored bears were most active in
bays,
and
sweet
gallberry
fruits
composed
64% of
the diet.
Movement of bears diminished in
fall,
and
though
bears continued to be active
in
bays, feeding
was concentrated in
hardwood
swamps
and on sand
ridges
(Fig. 3).
Use of these 2 habitats
evidently
depended
on the amount of black
gum
mast
produced
in the
swamps
and scrub
oak mast
produced
on the
ridges.
Be-
cause black
gum
and scrub oaks did not
produce heavily
in the same
year, pref-
erence for these and their
specific
habi-
tats could not be determined. Radio-mon-
itored bears did not use sand ridges
intensively,
but food habits data and
sign
indicated that bears fed
heavily
on scrub
oak acorns there in November 1975.
Denning
Habitat.-Information ob-
tained from radio-monitored bears and
scarcity
of tracks and scats
during
winter
indicated that bears in the
study
area
generally
denned from late December to
late March
despite relatively
mild tem-
peratures (Hamilton
and Marchinton
1978). During
the
study
7 bears were ra-
dio-monitored in winter. Five
(4 females,
1
male) denned,
and 2
young
males re-
mained active
throughout
midwinter. All
of those
denning
bedded in nests on the
ground
in
very
dense Carolina
bay
thick-
ets of fetterbush and laurel
greenbrier.
One
6-year-old
female that had bedded
in a 4-ha Carolina
bay
relocated to a hol-
low bald
cypress
tree in a hardwood
swamp
after
being
disturbed
by
a
pack
of
deer hounds. Two bears were forced
by
high
water to move to new
beds,
and 2
were disturbed
by
the
investigators.
Fol-
lowing
these
disturbances,
2 returned to
their beds and 2 relocated within the
bay
containing
their
original
bed.
Otherwise,
the bears remained bedded
throughout
winter
(Hamilton
and Marchinton
1978).
Relatively large, nearly impenetrable
bays
and
swamps
seem to be
important
in
providing
seclusion and
protection
from disturbance
during denning.
Den-
ning
bears were
easily
aroused
by dogs
and
humans;
all radio-monitored bears
initially
selected dense Carolina
bays
for
denning;
and all of the
bays
selected
were
large (av.
525
ha) except 1
that was
abandoned because of disturbance.
Scarcity
of tree cavities
may
have been
the reason that bears bedded on the
ground.
Tree cavities
provide
better
pro-
tection from
weather, high water, man,
and
dogs.
But extensive
logging
in the
past
had removed most
large
trees. All
large
hollow trees that we observed had
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Wildl. Manage. 43(1):1979
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152 BLACK BEAR IN NORTH CAROLINA% Landers et al.
signs
of
having
been climbed
by bears,
but most were hollow to the base and
contained water
during winter, making
them unsuitable for dens.
Escape Habitat.-Escape
cover
may
be the most critical
component
of black
bear habitat. Bear hunters
using dogs
and
citizens band radios harvested 27
bears,
all within
bays (N
=
15)
or
retreating
from them
(N
=
12).
Most Carolina
bays,
although containing
dense
vegetation,
were too small to
provide adequate pro-
tection. Bears chased
through
sand
ridges
and
pine
forests between
bays
and
swamps
were vulnerable to hunters be-
cause these habitats were netted with ac-
cess roads and
provided
little conceal-
ment.
The hardwood
swamp system
served
as an excellent
refuge
from man and
dogs. Important escape
factors were
dense
vegetation
and
expanses
of
water,
both of which made
tracking
difficult for
hounds and deterred hunters from
pur-
suing. Through
interviews and hunt
par-
ticipation
we found that hunters made
every
effort to catch their
dogs
and
stop
the chase when a bear entered the hard-
wood
swamp system.
Of the 45 known
bear mortalities
(1974-76),
none oc-
curred within the
swamp
habitat
(Ham-
ilton
1978).
Effects of Habitat Alteration
In
April
1976 a wildfire
resulting
from
land
clearing
burned
approximately
14%
of the
study
area.
Also,
more than
1,000
ha of Carolina
bays (4.3%
of this habitat
type)
were cleared for
agriculture
and
housing development during
the
2-year
study.
After the
clearing
of a 320-ha
bay
that had been
frequented by
a radio-mon-
itored
bear,
the bear was killed 19 km
from the
bay
in an area it had not visited
during previous radio-monitoring.
Another form of habitat alteration was
conversion of
longleaf pine-scrub
oak
habitat on sand
ridges
to slash
pine plan-
tations. This is
expected
to have an ad-
verse effect on bear
populations,
as evi-
denced
by
the limited use of
existing
plantations. Although pine plantations
made
up
about 11% of the
study area,
less
than 1% of the locations of monitored
bears were in this
type,
and no
bedding
was recorded in
pine plantations.
How-
ever, young plantations
and those
past
midrotation that are thinned and burned
are
productive
of
gallberry, blueberries,
and huckleberries
(Johnson
and Landers
1978).
CONCLUSIONS AND MANAGEMENT
IMPLICATIONS
Bears in this
region
of the Coastal Plain
need extensive areas
encompassing
a
complex
of habitat
types
to fulfill various
requirements throughout
the
year. Large
inaccessible areas must be
provided
for
escape
and
denning.
A
variety
of habitat
types
are
necessary
to meet food needs
at different seasons and
provide
alternate
foods when
yields
of the
major
fruit
pro-
ducing species
are low.
Clearing
of
bays
and conversion of
longleaf pine-
scrub oak on sand
ridges
to slash
pine
plantations
reduces mast
potential
and
probably
increases bear
dependence
on
swamps,
which
produce
food
irregularly.
Such losses
coupled
with mast failures
may
result in
poor
condition of bears for
denning,
increased winter
movement,
and
emigration.
These factors combined
with increased
damage
to
crops
and
api-
aries and more contact with
people
will
lead
inevitably
to
higher mortality
and
reduced bear numbers. Even with food
afforded at bait
sites,
shifts in habitat use
and increased movement occur
during
times of mast failure. It
appears
that
key
habitat
components such as
large bays,
sand
ridges,
and
major swamps must be
J. Wildl. Manage. 43(1):1979
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BLACK BEAR IN NORTH CAROLINA *Landers et al. 153
protected
if Coastal Plain bear
popula-
tions are to be maintained.
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