Characteristics of Black Bear Mortality on the Coastal Plain of North Carolina

Black bear (Ursus americanus) mortality data were collected in eastern North Carolina from 1976 to 1992. These data included registered harvest totals from mandatory hunter-harvest records, field reports, and tooth samples from bears dying of all causes (N = 1,107 for harvest; N = 350 for vehicle-kill). Increasing trends in harvest corresponded to establishment of seasons in 11 counties beginning in 1986. Vehicle-kills increased until 1990 but declined during 1991-92. Combined age structures did not differ significantly from the 1976-1985 period (before new seasons established) to the 1986-91 period (after new seasons established). Harvest age structures differed significantly from age structures of vehicle-kill. Bears <4 years old composed 56.2% of the harvest and 70.0% of vehicle-kills during the entire study period. Subadult males (1- and 2-year old classes) composed the largest portion of both harvest (28.8%) and vehicle-kill (32.3%). Harvest age structures did not change significantly between time periods whereas the vehicle-kill age structure did. A shift to younger age classes in vehicle-kills may be related to increased productivity. The age structures of males differed significantly from the age structures of females for both harvest and vehicle-kills. Percent males in the harvest (59.7%) and vehicle-kill (64.2%) differed significantly from parity whereas depredation (65.4%) and illegal kill (54.8%) sex ratios did not. Peak vehicle-kills occurred from June to December. Efforts should be focused on reducing vehicle-kills during the fall because this is the period when the highest average number of females are killed.

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