Black bears are present in the southern Appalachian Mountains and the coastal bays and swamps of North Carolina. The best habitat is provided in old forests dominated by hardwoods containing a variety of mast-producing tree and shrub species. Bears typically require extensive, rugged country with dense thickets, swamps, bays, or rock outcrops, and room to travel widely with little contact with agriculture or livestock production areas. Bears occasionally will cause damage in livestock operations, apple orchards, cornfields or by feeding on the inner bark of some desired tree species.
Black bears are omnivorous. The bulk of their diet is hard and soft mast, insects, animal matter and succulent plants. The amount and types of food eaten by bears varies according to seasonal activities and food availability.
|Pre-denning (August - November)|
|Holly berries||Black cherry|
|Denning* (December - March)
* some bears may be active throughout the winter denning season
|Post-denning (April - May)|
|Squaw root||Tree cambium|
|Breeding (June - July)|
Bear have keen senses of smell and hearing, but their vision is less acute. Near areas of human activity, they often bed down in dense thickets in daytime and do much of their moving at sunrise and sunset. Small bears sometimes use trees for resting places. Bears go into winter dormancy from December through March in the southern Appalachians.
The most important element of escape cover is protection from people, dogs, and off-road vehicles.
Bears require water daily. Two or more sources of permanent open water per square mile of range should be available.
Typical black bear densities range from one bear per square mile to one bear per seven square miles. The home range of bears in the Southeast ranges from 6 to 19 square miles for females to 18 to 160 square miles for males. Home ranges must include den sites, food, water and cover for adults and young. Home ranges and bear densities may vary considerably depending on available food sources. Mast shortages may result in considerable wandering, so other important fall and winter foods should be maintained at high levels to deter movement into areas where bears are more vulnerable or troublesome.
Numerous game and nongame species benefit from black bear management. Rather than focusing on a single species, habitat management plans should emphasize the communities which include black bears. The following species benefit from black bear management:
- Gray squirrel
- White-tailed deer
- Wood duck
- Great-horned owl
- American redstart
- Pileated woodpecker
- Ruffed grouse
Publication date: Jan. 1, 1994
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