Harvest can affect the size and composition of wildlife populations. American black bear (Ursus americanus) populations in the Central Interior Highlands, Arkansas, USA, were nearly extirpated as a result of harvest and habitat change, but have expanded geographically and demographically since reintroduction in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Harvest levels have increased since baiting was permitted on private land in 2001; therefore, we initiated demographic analyses of 2 black bear populations to evaluate the effect of this policy change. We evaluated composition of harvest in response to baiting and used noninvasive genetic sampling in conjunction with capture–recapture methods to estimate density, survival, and population growth rate (λ) of black bear populations at locations within the Ouachita (2006–2008) and Ozark (2009–2011) national forests, Arkansas. More males were harvested than females with the use of bait. Capture probability varied annually; thus, multi-year data were valuable for capturing accurate population parameters. Density was approximately 14 bears/100 km2 in the Ouachitas and approximately 26/100 km2 for the Ozarks, which was greater than estimates from historical data (1989–1990). Thus, these populations maintained or exceeded previous density estimates while the use of bait was allowed on private land. However, as with any harvested population, it will be important to continue to monitor the population to be able make decisions about appropriate harvest policies going forward.
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Vol. 29 • No. 2