The Asiatic black bear is categorized as vulnerable under the IUCN red list of threatened species and considered as critically endangered species in Pakistan with population of 1000 individuals (Liu et al. 2009; Abbas et al. 2015; Zahoor et al. 2021a; Zahoor et al., 2021b). It is largely distributed in the forested landscape of northern Pakistan, including Khyber Pakhtun khwa, Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (Abbas et al. 2015; Ali et al. 2017; Zahoor et al. 2021c; Zahoor et al. 2021d). It prefers habitat with coniferous forest, oak and coniferous mixed forest, deciduous or broad leaf forest, shrubs and grasses (Liu et al. 2009; Trent, 2010; Zahoor et al. 2021d). Being an elusive and indicator species, it plays a vital role in the sustainability of an ecosystem (Sathyakumar et al. 2013). Black bears are omnivores but they mainly feed on fruits, thus help in seed dispersal which improves the forest quantity and quality (Steinmetz et al. 2013; Ali et al. 2017; Zahoor et al. 2021d).
Black bears are often involved in livestock depredation and crop raiding, therefore are usually killed in retaliation by the local people (Charoo et al. 2011; Jamtsho and Wangchuk 2016). The conflict starts from late spring that gradually intensifies at the end of autumn and attains its peak when maize (Zea mays) crop, one of its favorite food, is at ripening stage (Ali et al. 2017, Kazmi et al. 2019; Zahoor et al. 2021c; Zahoor et al. 2021d). People using maize grains as a staple food source and other vegetal parts as fodder for livestock (Zahoor et al., 2021c) come in conflict with black bear during crop raiding.
Previous studies reported high intensities of human black bears conflicts in Pakistan (Ali et al. 2017; Kazmi et al. 2019; Waseem et al. 2020; Zahoor et al. 2021c; Zahoor et al. 2021d), however, there is no study available on activity pattern of black bears. In Taiwan, it was reported that in oak poor season, bears activity decreased and vice versa (Hwang and Garshelis 2007). Social stimulus, competition, predation, maternal behavior, and human disturbances (i.e., habitat degradation, hunting, and tourism) are also reported to affect the activity patterns in animals (Lewis and Rachlow 2011; Zhang et al. 2015; Leuchtenberger et al. 2018; Zahoor et al. 2021a). Detail studies of the key factors affecting activity pattern of a species can help develop comprehensive management plan for its better conservation.
Infrared camera traps and indigenous knowledge are often used to study the animals in the wild (Caravaggi et al. 2017; McPherson et al. 2016). Camera traps have extensively been used to study the activity pattern of the animals (Bu et al. 2016; Ikeda et al. 2016; Tang et al. 2017). Similar techniques were used to explore the activity pattern of black bears in the warm temperate forest and results were found satisfactory (Zahoor et al. 2021a).
Similarly, indigenous knowledge is the source of indirect information gathered from the people who usually interact with the wild animals, particularly in the areas like northern Pakistan, where human interferences are very high (Zahoor et al. 2021d). People often go to the forests for the collection of firewood, timber and medicinal plants and sometimes for hunting. Most of the people spend their summer months inside the forest areas where they involve themselves in different activities such as cultivation of crops and vegetables and grazing their livestock (Kabir et al. 2017; Zahoor et al. 2021c; Zahoor et al. 2021d). These people have good source of information about the wild animals due to their direct and indirect interaction with animals. Researchers often use such knowledge for distribution, abundance, demographics, trophic interactions, spatial ecology, and conservation status of wild animals and their threats (Camino et al. 2020). For the species like black bears the use of indigenous knowledge could be useful due to its conspicuous and cryptic nature (Zeller et al. 2011; Sathyakumar et al. 2013).
In present study, infrared camera traps were deployed and interviews were conducted to collect information on pre-designed questionnaires to explore the activity pattern of black bears in Machiara National Park (MNP), AJ&K, Pakistan. We hypothesized that (i) black bears would be highly active in summer and autumn seasons. (ii) Hibernation period of black bears under moist temperate conditions should be longer than the bears living under subtropical and warm temperate conditions (Reid et al.1991; Zahoor et al. 2021a). The study aimed to find out (i) the monthly activity pattern and (ii) hibernation period of the Asiatic black bears under the moist temperate environmental conditions. The study would help to mitigate the human-black bears conflicts in and around the MNP and thus could be important for the management and conservation of black bears in the future.