Assessing American black bear habitat in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta of southwestern Alabama

By: , and 



American black bears (Ursus americanus) have been extirpated from all but a few areas in southwestern Alabama, and the remaining habitat is being rapidly lost to development. Remnant bear populations exist near extensive (>125,000 ha) bottomland hardwood forests in the Mobile–Tensaw Delta (MTD), but those bottomland areas are rarely used by bears. Reintroduction of black bears to the MTD may improve viability of the remaining bear populations in southwestern Alabama. To evaluate the suitability of this area for bears, we compared habitat conditions at the MTD with similar alluvial habitats at White River National Wildlife Refuge (White River NWR), where bears are numerous. We measured overstory, midstory, and understory vegetation in the MTD and on the North and South management units at White River NWR. We used principal components analysis and principal variable selection to identify 9 variables associated with 5 principal components (hard mast, soft mast, cavity tree availability, large tree availability, and total basal area) that best explained variation among study areas. Differences among the study areas were associated with hard mast, soft mast, and cavity tree availability (P ≤ 0.001). Hard and soft mast production in the MTD was lower than at White River NWR, but we believe it was adequate. However, suitable den trees, which may be a critical habitat component given the duration and severity of winter flooding, appeared to be lacking in the MTD.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Assessing American black bear habitat in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta of southwestern Alabama
Series title Ursus
DOI 10.2192/1537-6176(2005)016[0245:AABBHI]2.0.CO;2
Volume 16
Issue 2
Year Published 2005
Language English
Publisher International Association for Bear Research and Management
Contributing office(s) Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center
Description 10 p.
First page 245
Last page 254
Country United States
State Alabama
County Baldwin county, Clarke county, Mobile county, Monroe county, Washington county
Other Geospatial Alabama river, Middle river, Mobile river, Tensaw river, Tombigbee river
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