Seasonal Food Habits of Black Bears in Great Dismal Swamp, Virginia-North Carolina

Food habits were determined for a black bear (Ursus americanus) population in Great Dismal Swamp on the Atlantic Coastal Plain. A total of 535 scats was collected from May 1984 to August 1986. Seasonal shifts in diet composition were similar to previously reported findings for black bear food habits in the southeastern United States. Diets changed from succulent, herbaceous material in the spring to soft mast and corn in the summer. Early fall diets were largely black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) (33%) and oak (Quercus spp.) (32%) mast. Late fall and winter diets were dominated by fruits of evergreen shrubs and vines. Animal foods comprised 3% of the annual diet. Four scats contained evidence of cannibalism. Management plans for Coastal Plain bear populations should include maintenance and enhancement of stands of mature gum, oaks, pocosins, and forest openings.

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