Spatial Characteristics of Black Bears and Bear Hunters in Garrett County, Maryland

Harvest vulnerability is an important consideration for the proper management of a black bear population. To assess harvest vulnerability, we must first understand black bear and bear hunter spatial characteristics. Global positioning system (GPS) technology allows us to record this information with more accuracy and efficiency than previous methods used by researchers. We used GPS and a geographic information system (GIS) to examine the spatial characteristics of bears and bear hunters in Garrett County, Maryland during the 2005-2007 bear hunting seasons. We fitted 94 hunters and 8 female bears with GPS transmitters during the three hunting seasons. We examined data from these transmitters using GIS to compare the following variables for bears and hunters: distance to roads, distance to streams, elevation, habitat type, and slope. We also calculated total distance traveled and maximum distance traveled from starting points for hunters. The median values for most variables were similar between the two groups. Bears used areas that were, on average, farther away from streams and roads than areas used by hunters. Hunters used a wider variety of habitat types than bears, but both bears and hunters used deciduous forest approximately 80% of the time. Hunters traveled a mean of 3.9 km per hunting event, but the mean maximum distance from the starting point of the hunt was only 0.8 km. We will use these results to create a predictive spatial model for bears and hunters to help identify which areas have high or low probabilities of bear-hunter interactions. This information will be used by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to make informed decisions regarding harvest regulations and black bear management.

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