Importance of Limiting Vehicle Access on Wildlife Management Areas in Middle Georgia for Black Bear Management

In Georgia, there are three geographically separated black bear (Ursus americanus) populations (North, Middle, and South). The middle population is the smallest and most isolated. Recent land purchases were made in part to conserve habitat for this population of bears. Our objectives were to determine if: 1) bear use of WMAs changes when the area is open or closed to hunting and 2) bear visitation rates to bear bait stations differ if roads are open to vehicular traffic. Both male and female bears used WMAs more during closed periods (males = 56.8% and females = 76.4%) than during open periods (males = 31.0% and females = 66.5%). Visitation rates to bear bait stations differed between closed roads (53.8%) versus open roads (23.2%). It is important that agencies managing public lands for black bears consider temporal and/or spatial regulation of human access to such areas, or parts thereof. We recommend more research to evaluate the use of spatial and/or temporal regulation of access on public lands to determine the proper balance between human access for recreational use and management for black bears.

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