Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Wildlife and Fisheries Resources

Committee Chair

John W. Edwards.


The West Virginia Black Bear Research Project (WVBBRP) was initiated in 1972 to investigate population parameters, growth rates, home ranges, and habitat uses of a declining American black bear (Ursus americanus ) population. The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) continued to monitor the black bear population and increased monitoring efforts and sample sizes in the 1990's as the black bear population increased in size and expanded its range. As part of the WVBBRP, we investigated black bear population ecology. Our objectives were to estimate reproductive rates, estimate survival and cause-specific mortality rates, examine effects of special hunting seasons and food conditions on survival, estimate population growth rates, examine population growth sensitivity to differing demographic parameters.;Reproductive parameter estimates were similar for numerous methods and should provide managers with more cost efficient ways of gathering data. Population demographics were different between oak (Quercus spp.)-hickory (Carya spp.) forest and mixed-mesophytic forest associations. Extreme mast failures influenced the number of black bears surviving to 1 year. Survival estimates of black bears were influenced by hunting season structures and food conditions. Special black bear hunting seasons conducted by the WVDNR reduced female survival and apparently stabilized the population in southern West Virginia. Black bear population dynamics differed within West Virginia and even within study areas depending on capture locations of females. Population dynamics and growth rates were affected by early hunting seasons and protection from hunting through private sanctuaries of large (≥ 544 ha) tracts of land. Where we observed adequate hunting pressure, the 2-year running average of the black bear harvest was highly correlated to population estimates and provided managers with an index to population size when it was not feasible to gather specific demographic data.;Although understanding the population dynamics of an individual species is critical, biologists must also consider public opinion when setting hunting seasons. In November--December 2006, we conducted a telephone survey of 1,206 West Virginia residents to determine their opinions and attitudes toward black bear populations and hunting seasons and to help strengthen the state's black bear management strategies. In general, most respondents supported black bear hunting if the population was carefully monitored, if they knew the population was stable, or both; however, a number of regional and sociodemographic characteristics appeared to influence public opinion on black bear hunting and hunting seasons in the state, and support for specific seasons varied considerably according to hunting method. Interestingly, our study found that, even among hunters, public opposition exceeded support for the current, year-round training season of black bear hunting dogs without harvesting animals in the state.;In addition to demographic data about wildlife populations and public opinion, hunter participation and success rates are vital for managers developing management programs and to evaluate current regulations and special seasons. We conducted a systematic random mail survey of hunters that purchased a black bear stamp in West Virginia in 2006 to determine effects of hunting seasons and the economic impact of black bear hunting. Hunters using dogs passed up more legal opportunities to harvest black bears than hunters using archery equipment or gun hunting without dogs. However, estimated harvests were similar because of the larger number of hunters that did not use dogs. The total economic impact of black bear hunting in West Virginia was {dollar}51,847,605.;The ability for managers to immobilize black bears for research projects and in nuisance situations is critical for a management agency. TelazolRTM (Fort Dodge Animal Health, Fort Dodge, IA) is an effective immobilization drug for black bears but concern exists regarding retention time of this drug in tissues relative to human consumption of bears. Therefore, we evaluated retention time of Telazol in captured American black bears immobilized with Telazol and held in captivity for 3 days, 7 days, 14 days, or 21 days. We detected Telazol in muscle and liver of one bear on day 7, in serum from 2 bears on day 7, and in urine of one bear each on day 3 and day 14. Our findings suggest Telazol is metabolized and eliminated quickly from the bear's system and should allow managers additional flexibility in mark-recapture studies and nuisance situations. (Abstract shortened by UMI.).