Black Bear Damage to Agricultural Crops in Coastal North Carolina

Damage to agricultural crops by black bears (Ursus americanus) is a widespread problem in coastal North Carolina. We examined extent and duration of damage to 1,802 ha of corn crops using aerial surveys conducted during summer 1993. Additionally, we obtained 1993 crop damage estimates and attitudes towards bears using a mail survey of farm operators on the Neuse-Pamlico peninsula in 1994. Greatest corn damage occurred in middle to late July during early stages of kernel ripeness. Aerial survey results showed that bears damaged approximately 0.6% of the corn crop compared to 1.2% estimated by farm operators. Most farm operators (77.8%) enjoyed seeing bears on their farms, but 45.4% worried about crop damage. Farm operators who had received crop damage were more likely to view bears as nuisances. Corn was the major crop damaged with estimated losses exceeding $27,000. Management efforts should focus on alleviating bear/farmer conflicts through education and population manipulation which could keep bear numbers at a socially acceptable level without negatively impacting populations.

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