University of Tennessee Continues Monitoring Black Bear Populations Across the Southeast


SACBS, UT Department of FWF

University of Tennessee student and SACBS research field manager Sam Millman (center, crouching) explains the sample collection procedure to other participants in the 2017 Southern Appalachian Cooperative Bear Study (SACBS), a research program collecting population data of Appalachian black bears. SACBS is currently in its second and final year in which research technicians, students and volunteers are working to collect hair samples of black bears in North Carolina. ​Photo by K. Keel-Blackmon, courtesy UTIA.





KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — To many in the southern Appalachians, there is no animal more iconic than the black bear. This summer, residents in Western North Carolina will have the chance to become more familiar with the research that helps create sound conservation and management strategies for this species.

The Southern Appalachian Cooperative Bear Study (SACBS), a research program of the University of Tennessee, is collecting population data of Appalachian black bears. SACBS is currently in its second and final year in which research technicians, students and volunteers are working to collect hair samples of black bears in North Carolina. This four-state research project, which worked in Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina last year, is using innovative, game-changing methods for collecting the hairs. Previous methods for collecting population data involved trapping, sedating and giving each bear an ear tag. As one may imagine, this can be a stressful process for the animals—and potentially dangerous for researchers. 

The new data collection method used by SACBS is faster, less stressful to the animals and safer for everyone involved. Researchers construct triangular or square barbed-wire snares, with a food reward hanging in the center. The most popular lures have been donuts.Bears within the area are enticed by the smell of the lure and cross over the wires, leaving their hairs stuck in the barbs. The hairs are collected and sent to a laboratory for DNA testing, which tells researchers where the bears have been as well as how often they visit each snare site. This gives researchers a database of individuals from which they can calculate population density. 

A total of 425 of the “safe” snares are planned to be set in North Carolina.

SACBS researchers and technicians are working with private property owners to
access much of the land where the research will be conducted. Mailers have already been sent to request permission to go on these properties. The research crew is also looking for volunteers, specifically students, to help with data and sample collection. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact research field manager Sam Millman at smillman@vols.utk.edu​.

The researchers work as part of the Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture. The department’s curricula focus on a mastery learning approach, emphasizing practical, hands-on experiences. FWF’s faculty, staff and students conduct research and extension that advances the science and sustainable management of our natural resources. For more information, visit fwf.tennessee.edu.

Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions.
ag.tennessee.edu​.

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Contact:

Kristy Keel-Blackmon, communications specialist, UTIA Department of Forestry, Wildlife & Fisheries, 865-974-8342,
kristyak@utk.edu

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