In Central India, the North Bilaspur Forest Division (NBFD) harbors a large number of sloth bears (Melursus ursinus). The managed forests of the division are mostly patchy, fragmented, degraded, and interspersed with crop fields and villages with high human and cattle population. The feeding ecology of sloth bears was studied by analyzing 568 scats; 21 species of plants, termites, ants, and bees, as well as unidentified animal matter (bone, hairs and tissue) were found in bear scats. Year-round frequencies of occurrence of animal and plant matter were similar. Animal matter constituted 87% of scats during monsoon and 82% during winter seasons, but dropped to 65% during summer. On percent dry-weight basis, plant matter was greater than animal matter in scats in all seasons. Frequency of occurrence of insects was high during monsoon (87%) and winter (82%), whereas Ficus species were more common (68%) during summer season. Ficus species were high in percent weight in all seasons. Ficus species appear to be important to bears, especially when fields lack crops, few other species are fruiting, and soil is hard, making it difficult to dig for ants and termites. The presence of groundnut and corn (maize) in diets during the monsoon suggests crop damage by bears, thereby increasing chances of human–bear conflict.
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Vol. 15 • No. 2