Habitat utilisation by sun bears in degraded lowland forest

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Objective: Using bear claw marks as an indicator of forest habitat utilization at the landscape scale and identify important tree resources at the local scale in degraded forest.

Methods: (B3, H3, K3)* Sign surveys to determine habitat-specific presence/absence, and with application to habitat connectivity and ecological requirements.

Specific methods: Plot-based habitat surveys (0.2ha plots) along transects using a site-wide systematic sampling design that proportionally represented the main habitats of the site; only claw marks were recorded (no other sign types); tree inventories were completed to at least genus level in a sub-set of larger plots (0.25 ha) both with and without claw marks.

Reasons for choosing these methods: Bear claw marks are unmistakable (with some training), conspicuous, and useful for confirming presence and habitat use; other signs were not used as they may not reflect direct habitat dependence or could be confused with other mammals, and we needed to establish a consistent, accurate and repeatable approach for long-term monitoring of bear presence in the landscape.

Results: Sun bear habitat use was significantly associated with increasing habitat quality; the likelihood of bears utilizing a given habitat increased with tree biomass and decreased with understorey cover; tree assemblages were significantly different between plots with and without claw marks; the abundance and use of Olacaceae stems were higher in areas with claw marks/bear presence.

Problems (obstacles, biases): Being unable to account for temporal shifts in habitat and resource use; not capturing information on other foraging strategies.

Recommendations: For full understanding of habitat use, establish reliable ways to incorporate the full suite of bear signs in surveys; and/or quantify relationships between sign prevalence, to use claw marks as a relative measure/proxy of habitat use; monitor permanent plots to assist in understanding seasonal habitat/resource use.

Publication/Report: Lee et al. (2019) Acta Oecologica; End of project report (2011) to The Bear Conservation Fund of the International Association for Bear Research and Management.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - Nov 2019
EventDeveloping Population Monitoring Guidelines for Asian Bears - Taipei Zoo and Dasyueshan Forest Recreation Area, Taiwan, Province of China
Duration: 4 Nov 20198 Nov 2019


WorkshopDeveloping Population Monitoring Guidelines for Asian Bears
Country/TerritoryTaiwan, Province of China
Internet address


  • Sun bear
  • Wildlife conservation
  • Tropical forest restoration
  • Sign surveys


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