A demographic comparison of two black bear populations in the Interior Highlands of Arkansas

Wildlife Society Bulletin
By:  and 



The Ozark and Ouachita mountain regions of western Arkansas, collectively known as the Interior Highlands, historically supported large numbers of black bears (Ursus americanus). Indiscriminate killing of bears by early settlers and subsequent habitat reductions due to extensive logging and changes in land use resulted in their decline (Smith et al. 1991). By the late 1940's, bears had been extirpated from both regions (Holder 1951).

Between 1958 and 1968, Arkansa Game and Fish Commission (ACFC) Officials trapped 254 black bears in northern Minnesota and Manitoba, Canada and released them in the Interior Highlands (Rogers 1973, Smith et al. 1991d). Since then, bear numbers have dramatically increased, making the Arkansas reintroduction the most successful attempted for black bears (Smith et al. 1991). Hunts have been conducted each autumn or winter since 1980. Because little was known about bear demographics and sustainable harvest in the Interior Highlands, however, hunting regulations have been restrictive with 5-31 bears harvested/year (J.D. Clark, AGFC Annu. Harvest Rep., 1980-1988).

Bears now range throughout the Ozark Mountains and Ouachita Mountains, but these regional populations are allopatric, separated by the Arkansas River Valley and Interstate 40 (J.D. Clark, unpubl. data). Past reintroduction strategies and harvest levels differed between the 2 regions, with more intensive restocking and hunting in the Ozark region. Habitat also differs with the Ozark Mountains primarily oak-hickory (Quercus spp.-Carya spp.) upland forest compared to pine (Pinus spp.) and mixed pine-hardwood forest in the Ouachita Mountais (Smith 1989). Because habitat quality has been shown to be the major factor affecting black bear productivity (Rogers 1976, Bunnell and Tait 1981, Elowe and Dodge 1989) and bear populations are susceptible to overharvest, our objectives were to: 1) estimate population growth and sustainable yield for populations in both regions and 2) determine whether different environmental conditions in the 2 regions resulted in differences in demographic parameters.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title A demographic comparison of two black bear populations in the Interior Highlands of Arkansas
Series title Wildlife Society Bulletin
Volume 22
Year Published 1994
Language English
Publisher Wildlife Society
Contributing office(s) Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center
Description 11 p.
First page 593
Last page 603
Country United States
State Arkansas
Other Geospatial Dry Creek Wilderness Area, Ouachita National Forest, Ozark National Forest, White Rock Wildlife Management Area
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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