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Published Abstracts from Research Projects

Relationship of White-tailed Deer, Black Bears, and Oak Mast on Seven Wildlife Management Areas in North Georgia

By: Kent Kammermeyer, David Gregory and Tamara Terry

Correlation analyses were used to test for relationships among black bear and white-tailed deer harvests, population parameters and indices, oak mast and associated hunter harvest on seven Wildlife Management Areas (totaling 167,000 acres) in the north Georgia Mountains. By pooling these data   and comparing separate data sets (containing a total of 18 variables) beginning in 1977 and continuing through 2002, we found several statistical relationships. First, mid-summer black bear bait station survey indices were positively correlated with number of bears harvested in the fall (r = 0.79, P= 0.001) suggesting that the index is a good indicator of bear population changes. Bear bait station data were negatively correlated with fall deer recruitment rate (number of fawns/adult doe in the hunter harvest) (r = -0.85, P = 0.001) and also with six-month old fawns harvested per year (r = -0.58, P = 0.05) suggesting higher bear populations coincided with lower fawn crops over the 25-year period. Bear harvest was also negatively correlated with deer recruitment rate (r = -0.65, P = 0.001) and with six-month old fawns harvested (r = -0.51, P = 0.02) further indicating that more bears equal fewer fawns. Deer recruitment was also correlated with the previous year's mast crop (r = 0.66, P = 0.001). These correlations suggest that deer recruitment is related to the previous year's mast crop and that lower deer recruitment is related to higher bear densities. A plausible mechanism for this correlation is increased bear predation on newborn deer fawns in late spring and summer especially following poor mast years. Mast production was also positively correlated with antlered buck harvest (r = 0.72, P = 0.001), but not with bear harvest (r = -0.06, P = 0.50). We suspect that when acorns were abundant, buck activity levels increased (especially related to the rut) while bear movements probably decreased due to reduced foraging activity.

Presented at the 26th Annual  Meeting of the Southeast Deer Study Group, February 23-26, 2003, Chattanooga, TN.

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