Black Bear Habitat Suitability in the Davis Mountains

While the majority of black bears reside along the southern border of west Texas, confirmed sightings have documented the movement of bears to northern areas of the Trans-Pecos.  Previous research on black bear in the Trans-Pecos has been focused on Big Bend National Park and Black Gap Wildlife Management Area. However, the Davis Mountains, with its high elevations and woodland vegetation, have also been identified as potentially suitable for black bears. The goal of our study was to provide resource managers with information to identify potential suitable habitat for black bears in the Davis Mountains.

We evaluated eight ecological sites that occurred on the Davis Mountains Preserve.  For each ecological site we conducted a vegetation inventory of trees, shrubs, and cacti Specifically, we evaluated the vegetation composition compared to those plants that had been documented as forage for black bears by other studies from the region, such as alligator juniper, pinyon pine, various oaks, and catclaw mimosa.  Our study suggests that suitable habitat is available for black bears in the Davis Mountains. Based on our examination of the availability of black bear forage on the Davis Mountains Preserve, the most suitable habitat is in the Canyon (Mountain Savannah) ecological site.  Other ecological sights such as Igneous Hill and Mountain (Mountain Savannah) and Mountain Loam (Mountain Savannah) also contained high amounts of black bear forage.

 

Grey oaks typically produce mature acorns from August through September, providing an important source of forage for black bears in the Trans-Pecos.

 

ecological sites

Ecological sites within the study area in the Davis Mountains, ranked from most desirable (1, dark green) to least desirable (8, dark orange) for black bears.