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 Species Spotlight

[Photo: US Fish and Wildlife]
[Photo: US Fish and Wildlife]

American Black Bear
Ursus americanus

Description: American black bears are typically black in color, although western black bears are often lighter, exhibiting a brown or cinnamon coat color. Black bears have dark colored heads with a pale muzzle. They can weigh anywhere from 86-900 pounds (39-409 kg) and range from 47-79 inches (120-200 cm) in length, with males larger than females.

Life History: Black bears breed from late May through August and can reproduce every 2 years (although this is highly dependent on nutrition). Males and females reach sexual maturity from 2-5 years and females have, on average, 2-3 cubs per litter. American black bears are omnivorous and opportunistic feeders. Grasses and forbs (flowering plants) are preferred during the spring, berries and insects during the summer, and acorns and nuts are preferred during the fall. The average lifespan of a black bear is 10 years. Mortality of black bears is usually due to hunting by humans.

Habitat: Black bear habitat is typified by thick understory in remote, wooded areas. In the Ozark-Oauchita Appalachian forests black bears can be found in oak-hickory and other mixed hardwood forests. Habitat preference is seasonal; black bears prefer meadows in the spring, riparian habitat in the summer, and mature forests in fall. Old-growth forest is preferred for black bear denning.

Distribution: Ursus americanus is found throughout North America, from Central Mexico to Northern Alaska.  The black bear is common throughout national parks and other protected areas in the  Ozark-Oauchita Appalachian Forests ecoregion.

Status: Black bears are intensively hunted for food and trophy. However, black bears live mostly in national parks where they have retreated from hunting and agriculture. Although black bears are thriving within their range, they are threatened by habitat destruction.


US Forest Service, Ursus americanus

University of Michigan, Animal Diversity Web

 Ozark, Oauchita-Appalachian Forests

Ozark, Oauchita-Appalachian Forests Level 3 Ecoregion Map [Figure: Houston Advanced Research Center]
Ozark, Oauchita-Appalachian Forests Level 3 Ecoregion Map [Figure: Houston Advanced Research Center]

The Ozark, Oauchita-Appalachian Forests is an ecoregion rich in biodiversity.  It is comprised of thousands of acres of protected forests which spans the entire central and western portions of Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma. This ecoregion has four unique areas: Arkansas Valley and Ridges, Boston Mountains, Ouachita Mountains, and the Ozark Highlands.

The Ozarks region has over 6.5 million acres of public lands and waters, including 65 state parks, 3 national forests, and many wildlife and wilderness conservation areas.  The major industries in this ecoregion are forestry, mining, agriculture, and tourism. Humans impact this region through logging of riparian habitat, land conversion for urban development, grazing, and fire suppression. Many invasive species in this area may also threaten forest habitat and resources. These threats include the sericea lespedeza(Lespedeza cuneata), European gypsy moth(Lymantria dispar), red imported fire ant(Solenopsis invicta), knapweeds(Centaurea sp.), and purple loosestrife(Lythrum salicaria).Some examples of native wildlife found across this region are chipmunks, squirrels, black bears, quail, white-tailed deer, prairie warblers and the red-eyed vireo. Big and little bluestem, indiangrass and switchgrass comprise the prominent understory species across the Ozarks, Ouachita ecoregion.

Read more about the Ozarks Ouachita ecoregion by maximizing the "Ecological Subregions" box below.

 Ecological Subregions Maximize

 Invasive Spotlight

[Photo: USDA]
[Photo: USDA]

Sericea Lespedeza
Lespedeza cuneata

Description: Sericea lespedeza is a perennial forb from the legume family (Fabaceae). This plant grows from 1.6-6.6 feet (0.5-2.0 m) tall, and has coarse, clustered stems with many branches. This shrubby looking plant has dense club or wedge-shaped leaves which are 0.2-1 inches (0.5-2.5 cm) long and .06-0.2 inches (1.5-6 mm) wide, and silky underneath. Sericea lespedeza flowers are yellowish-white in color with purple or pink marks, and 0.25 inches (0.6 cm) long. The seeds are .06-.1 inches (1.5-2.5 mm) long and tan or green in color.

Life History: Sericea lespedeza flowers from July to October. It can reproduce both sexually with seed dispersion by humans, wind, and cattle and asexually, (via sprouting). Sericea lespedeza can produce from 150-300 million seeds/acre, with seed viability ranging from 4-20 years. The initial growth stage of this plant is concentrated in the root systems, thus growth is slow. However, once established, this plant is very hardy, exhibiting good drought tolerance.

Habitat: Sericea lespedeza prefers open sites and invades areas with little tree or shrub competition. This plant will tolerate very acidic to slightly alkaline soils, but prefers pHs near 6.0-6.5. Sericea lespedeza likes clay and loamy soils but will also grow on more nutrient poor, sandy sites.

Distribution: Lespedeza cuneatais native to eastern and central Asia. This plant was initially introduced in North Carolina for use as forage for cattle, but now occurs from New England west to Wisconsin and south from Florida to Texas.

Status: Sericea lespedeza is an aggressive non-native plant. It is already considered noxious in Kansas, and is being considered for listing in Oklahoma, as well. Because of the bushiness of this plant it shades out native plants. Although the young shoots are suitable for cattle forage, mature plants provide low forage quality for cattle and low value to wildlife. Characteristics that make lespedeza a good invader are high seed production, good response to fire, and ability to tolerate drought. Management of this species can be achieved through a well-timed combination of grazing, burning, mowing, and herbicides.


Missouri Department of Conservation

US Forest Service

 Endangered Spotlight

[Photo: Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission]
[Photo: Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission]

Magazine Mountain Shagreen
Mesodon magazinensis

Description: The Magazine Mountain shagreen is a medium sized brown or buff colored snail. It is 0.5 inches (13 mm) wide and 0.3 inches (7 mm) long. The name "shagreen" means rough skin, which is exemplified by the rough and scaly texture of the snail's shell.

Life History: Due to the reclusive nature of these snails, little is known about the life history of this species.

Habitat: The habitat requirements of this snail are very specific. The Magazine Mountain shagreen likes to live among rocky debris with a 60 percent slope. It lives among log and leaf litter and prefers cool and moist conditions. The snail will move deep within rock crevasses to avoid warm or dry conditions; it prefers the cooler, northern slopes of Magazine Mountain for habitat.

Distribution: Mesodon magazinensis resides on the north slopes of Magazine Mountain in Logan County, Arkansas at altitudes between 2000-2600 feet (600-790 m). The range of this snail is so narrow that only 540 acres of suitable habitat exists on Magazine Mountain.

Status: The Magazine Mountain shagreen was listed in 1989 as a federally threatened species. The main reason for listing was due to its restricted range; thus any habitat modification could have serious consequences for its survival. Because Magazine Mountain is located within a National Forest, the Forest Service has designated the shagreen's habitat as a special interest area, which will protect its habitat from potentially harmful forestry practices.


Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

US Fish and Wildlife, Recovery Plan

US Fish and Wildlife, Threatened Species Listing

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