Indices of relative abundance allow managers and researchers to examine changes in population size over time or compare relative population sizes in different areas. In the Pisgah Bear Sanctuary, bait-station surveys were conducted in most years from 1983 to 2000 to follow trends over time in the black bear (Ursus americanus) population. Baited bear trapping also took place in the sanctuary during those years, and some trap lines coincided with bait-station lines. Because the same baits were used for both trapping and bait station lines, we hypothesized that visitation rates of bears to bait stations established in proximity to baited trap lines would differ from rates at bait stations that were not associated with baited trap lines. We modeled probability of bait stations being visited by bears on trapped and untrapped lines to estimate the effect baited trapping had on visitation rates. We found that population trends inferred from bait-station visits in areas that also were trapped with bait were biased high and that bias increased over time. Bears may have become habituated to the bait on trap lines and incorporated it as a regular food source. Bait-station indices should not be conducted near research sites that employ similar bait when both produce a tangible reward for the animals.
Additional publication details
Effects of trapping with bait on bait-station indices to black bear abundance