A Multiscale Assessment of Den Selection by Black Bears in Louisiana


E-mail: mchamb2@lsu.edu


ABSTRACT Understanding den selection for the federally threatened Louisiana black bear (Ursus americanus luteolus) will assist managers in effectively managing bear populations and the landscapes they inhabit. We assessed den selection of 72 female Louisiana black bears at multiple spatial scales in northern and central Louisiana, USA. We used 230 den-years to examine den type preference, microhabitat characteristics of dens, and effects of landscape characteristics on den selection. We also evaluated reuse of tree dens and their availability across several study areas. Bears selected tree dens more frequently (65%) than ground dens. Most (55%) ground dens were associated with standing or downed trees, and most tree dens were in baldcypress (Taxodium distichum; 86%) or surrounded by water (80%). Selection of ground dens was positively associated with landscape metrics related to presence of water, whereas selection of tree dens was positively associated with proximity to edge and greater proportions of swamp and areas containing water. Reuse of tree dens averaged 15% (range = 0–20%) across study areas and our estimates of tree-den availability indicated that tree dens were not a limiting resource for Louisiana black bears in the northern or central portions of Louisiana. Although Louisiana black bears demonstrated plasticity in den selection, we recommend managers use forest management practices that conserve appropriate tree dens and create ground-denning opportunities, because both would promote the recovery of Louisiana black bear populations.