Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: North Carolina
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

North Carolina Project

Habitat Characteristics of Bear-Vehicle Collision Kill Sites, Bear Family Group Dynamics and Source-Sink Dynamics for Black Bears in Urban Environments and the Implications for Regional Black Bear Population

July 2021 - December 2022


Participating Agencies

  • North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

Cities now constitute one of the most rapidly growing ecosystems in the world, and with the global spotlight on increasing urbanization and development, the focus on wildlife in ‘natural’ systems is sharing importance with a focus on wildlife in urban systems, providing unique research opportunities in ecology and conservation. Currently, greater than 10% of the earth’s land surface is categorized as ‘urban cover’ and that area is continually growing. By 2050, 70% of the human population is expected to live in cities, which now constitute one of the ‘newest and fastest growing’ ecosystems in the world. In North Carolina, black bear populations occupy nearly two-thirds of the state and their range continues to expand, including into areas with high densities of people and road networks. Humans and black bears are now living in greater proximity to each other, resulting in increased human-bear interactions and some areas of the state may have reached or exceeded the social carrying capacity. Continued investigations into the fine–scale spatial and behavioral ecology of black bears in urban environments is warranted. For example, the identification of characteristics associated with bear-vehicle mortality along major interstates will help identify habitat characteristics associated with collision, and thus may aid in reducing collisions with vehicles. Additionally, in source-sink dynamics, wildlife populations that have access to high quality habitat typically have birth rates that are greater than death rates and surplus individuals disperse from the population as emigrants. In contrast, sink populations have low habitat quality, or suitability, and thus experience death rates that exceed birth rates and the population could decline towards extinction (i.e., a sink), unless ‘rescued’ by immigration from surrounding source populations. We will evaluate family group dynamics and estimate population growth rates and population dynamics. Clearly, these objectives have direct and indirect consequences for humans and bears in our rapidly changing urban environments.