Wild bear populations in Southeast Asia are threatened with extinction, but the ecology and distribution of the 2 species occurring in the region's protected areas is poorly known, so there is little scientific basis underlying conservation strategies. We used bear signs, primarily claw marks on climbed trees, to study habitat selection and distribution of Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus) and sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) across Khao Yai National Park, Thailand from March to December 2008. We found black bear claw marks in 24 of 30 random sample blocks (80%), indicating that this species was widely distributed across Khao Yai. Sun bear signs were much scarcer: their claw marks occurred in 11 blocks (37%); data were too sparse for sun bear so we limited our focus to Asiatic black bear. Using logistic regression, we found that fruit abundance best explained variation in presence of black bear, whereas human disturbance, distance to park edge, elevation, and ground cover had little influence. Fruits appear to be a key resource for Asiatic black bears, and factors affecting fruit abundance or shifts in seasonality (e.g., climate change) will impact bear populations. Knowledge of this relationship will allow managers to be more proactive in managing bears. We recommend using sign surveys for monitoring changes in black bear occupancy as they are inexpensive, efficient, and can be conducted by trained park rangers.
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