Characteristics of Black Bear Cubs in the Southern Appalachians

Female black bears (Ursus americanus) were captured and radio collared in Cherokee National Forest (CNF) and Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) from 1980 to 1982. Whereas most females den in inaccessible tree cavities high above ground, during the 1981-82 winter, 66% in the CNF and GSMNP denned on the ground affording scientists the opportunity to directly examine 15 litters. Litter sizes ranged from 1 to 4 (x =2.58), were comparable with litter sizes reported from other parts of the United States, and were similar among age classes of females. Estimated litter sizes based on recorded vocalizations were probably low; reliability may be enhanced by recording soon after cubs are born. Weights of cubs and yearlings averaged 1.82 kg and 8.8 kg, respectively. These weights are lighter than those reported from other studies and may reflect a less abundant and/or less reliable source of fall foods. Sex ratios and stages in development of cubs were observed and are reported.

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