Year of Publication

2009

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type

Thesis

College

Agriculture

Department

Forestry

First Advisor

Dr. John J. Cox

Second Advisor

Dr. Michael J. Lacki

Abstract

Kentucky, USA, is the site of recent natural recolonization by the American black bear (Ursus americanus); however, bears are rarely observed outside the Cumberland Mountains along the state‘s southeastern border. I examined the influence of roads in constraining the distribution of this population by altering animal space use and movement. I identified patterns of road avoidance and road crossing using data from Global Positioning System collars worn by 28 adult bears (16M, 12F), and described road mortality trends using 27 roadkill events. Bears avoided roads at the home range and landscape scale, primarily crossed low-traffic roads, and crossed in sites that minimized detection by humans. Males displayed more evidence of road avoidance than females, but females crossed roads more selectively than males. Bears were most often killed on high to moderate traffic roads, and in areas less forested than expected. Roadkill and road crossing sites bore different attributes. The results of my study support previous findings that space use near roads and road crossing reflect a tradeoff between the risks of road mortality and human harassment, and the benefits of access to habitat, mates, and anthropogenic food. Road-mediated restriction of black bear space use and movement is indicated.

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