Evaluating potential effects of widening US 64 on the black bear population of Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, Dare County, North Carolina.

Evaluating potential effects of widening US 64 on the black bear population of Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, Dare County, North Carolina.

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    Final report; March 15, 2009-March 31, 2012.
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    This report summarizes research conducted along US Highway 64 (US 64) and US Highway 264 (US 264) in Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge (ARNWR), Dare County, NC regarding the proposed expansion of US 64. The study site included the areas adjacent to US 64 from the Alligator River Bridge to the US 64/US 264 intersection and from Cub Road to Borrow Pit Road on US 264. This report evaluates potential effects of the road improvement project on the black bear population, delineates significant wildlife crossing areas, and provides data on movement patterns and population dynamics of black bears on ARNWR. The primary focus of the research was to identify sites along US 64, frequently used by black bears and white-tailed deer as potential sites for wildlife crossing structures. It is the legal obligation of the US Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct a Compatibility Determination to decide whether the proposed project is compatible with the purpose of the refuge. Thus we evaluated the current wildlife use patterns surrounding the highway and the potential short- and long-term effects of the expansion project on the entire suite of wildlife occupying the areas directly adjacent to US 64. We employed a variety of research methods including; roadside barbed wire hair collection, GPS collar deployments, remote camera trapping, road kill surveys, and driving surveys. The road side barbed wire surveys documented 890 black bear road crossings from March 2009 – March 2011. 83 individual bears (65M:18F) were genetically identified from hair samples collected. GPS collars were deployed on 49 individual bears (26M:23F) and detailed 15 bears (11M:4F) crossing US 64, 99 times. The GPS collars also detailed intense use of the areas directly adjacent to US 64. We photo-captured 170 white-tailed deer, > 200 bobcats and raccoons and an additional 260 black bears at 12 guard rail openings along US 64 from June 2009 – March 2011. Driving surveys provided additional 3 and 19 sightings of black bears and white-tailed deer respectively from March 2009 – March 2010. We identified 184 individual bears (132M:52F) within the study area. Road kill surveys documented 8 white-tailed deer (2M:3F:3U) road mortalities from November 2008 – July 2011. Including historical data collected by the USFWS, the cumulative total of road killed black bears on US 64 from January 1993 – July 2011 was 63 (35M:20F:8U: =3.32/year). Road kill data also included; 75 bats (7 species, 1 species a NC Threatened Species), 82 small mammals (9 species), 134 mid-sized mammals (10 species), 1,153 birds (66 species), 4,014 reptiles (44 species), and 7,498 amphibians (18 species). Four species recovered in our surveys were NC Species of Concern. This study identified 6 high priority areas for black bear and white-tailed deer crossing and an extensive network of crossing areas for small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.
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