Population Growth and Mortality Sources of the Black Bear Population in Northern Georgia

An understanding of black bear (Ursus americanus) population trends and cause-specific mortality is needed to direct management decisions in northern Georgia given an increasing human population. Therefore, we evaluated black bear population trends and mortality sources across 26 counties and 18 Wildlife Management Areas in northern Georgia from 1979-2014. We collected harvest data from 6,433 individuals during the study period. Using age-at-harvest data, population reconstruction illustrated an increasing trend in the bear population for both males (λ = 1.113) and females (λ = 1.108). Bait station indices reflected a similar increase in the bear population based on increased visitation over time (min: 12.3% visitation in 1983; max: 76.7% visitation in 2009). Bear-vehicle mortalities also increased from 1986-2014 and were greater for males relative to females, especially males ≤2 years old. Bear-vehicle mortalities were greater for males than for females during May-July; however, bear-vehicle mortalities increased for both sexes during August-November. Current population trajectory suggests black bear populations in northern Georgia will continue to increase. If bear population trends continue to increase, we suggest further evaluation of current bear harvest regulations in northern Georgia to reduce potential bear-human conflicts.

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