Conservation and Management of Isolated Black Bear Populations in the Southeastern Coastal Plain of the United States

Developing black bear (Ursus americanus) conservation strategies for the southeastern United States is critical because of increasing habitat fragmentation. Ecological and demographic data collected from a black bear population in Great Dismal Swamp has provided insight into development of these strategies. One strategy is maintaining large, contiguous forest tracts with minimal human disturbance. Identification, maintenance, and enhancement of key habitat patches, such as pocosins and mesic islands, also are important. Remote sensing data can identify corridors among relatively disjunct bear populations that should be targeted for conservation. Population data also suggest the role of Great Dismal Swamp and other large tracts of occupied bear range in this region as reservoirs for black bear reproduction and dispersal into smaller, more fragmented habitats. Research on dispersal and gene flow is essential to determine the true degree of isolation among coastal populations. We consider determining female survival rates and maintaining contiguous forest blocks as the most critical conservation needs.

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