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Reproduction in Black Bears in the Southern Appalachian Mountains

John H. Eiler, W. Gregory Wathen and Michael R. Pelton
The Journal of Wildlife Management
Vol. 53, No. 2 (Apr., 1989), pp. 353-360
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Wildlife Society
DOI: 10.2307/3801137
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3801137
Page Count: 8
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Reproduction in Black Bears in the Southern Appalachian Mountains
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Abstract

We collected information related to reproduction in black bears (Ursus americanus) in the Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee during 1972-82. We observed females in estrus from 5 June to 12 September, and most breeding activity from 24 June to 21 July. Females in ground dens had mean litter sizes of 2.6 cubs; mean litter size for females with yearlings in ground dens was 2.2. Most females gave birth for the first time at 4 or 5 years of age (range = 2-5 yr). Females usually gave birth every other year, but 8 of 23 females exhibited skips between years. The loss of entire litters was not common although we observed mortality within litters. The availability of hard mast during fall affected minimum reproductive age, productivity, and cub survival. Maximizing hard mast production and promoting secondary fall foods should enhance reproduction and survival of black bears in the southern Appalachian Mountains.

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