Anthropogenic influence on black bear diet in the western Ozark mountains in Eastern Oklahoma
Connor, Joseph P.
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American black bears are returning to eastern Oklahoma from Arkansas, where they were re- introduced in the 1950s. This movement back into human-occupied area can lead to human-bear conflict. Anthropogenic sources of food may be attracting the bears. To determine the extent of anthropogenic influence, I analyzed bear scat for anthropogenic food items. I collected 38 scat samples opportunistically from 16 May 2014 through 17 October 2014 in the forests of the Ozark Plateau in Adair, Cherokee, and Sequoyah counties. Once collected, the scat was dried under a heat lamp for preservation. I rehydrated scat and filtered the samples for all undigested food items, categorizing them into 6 foraging groups: anthropogenic food, reproductive plant parts, herbage, animal matter, debris, and unidentified material. I then measured percent volume and percent frequency of occurrence of each food item that was > 1% of the volume of the entire sample. There was not a significant difference between the amounts of anthropogenic food compared to the amount of natural food (Mann Whitney U test, p = 0.368). The volumes of 6 diet groups were highly significantly different (Kruskal-Wallis, p < 0.001) and were separated into 3 statistically distinct groups: Anthropogenic food > Reproductive plant parts > Animal matter = Herbage = Debris = Unidentified (Tukey’s Honest Significant Difference test, alpha = 0.05). To decrease the amount of human influence on wildlife diet, landowners in the area would need to take actions to limit available corn sources.