Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Belant, Jerrold L.

Committee Member

Leopold, Bruce D.

Committee Member

Evans, David L.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Graduate Thesis - Open Access


Wildlife and Fisheries Science

Degree Name

Master of Science


College of Forest Resources


Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture


Dens are a critical component of black bear (Ursus americanus) habitat, yet scale-dependent den-site selection has received limited attention. Natural and anthropogenic factors (e.g., vegetation, roads) may also influence bear den-site selection. I quantified black bear denning chronology and den use and evaluated multi-scale den-site selection in Mississippi, USA during 2005–2011. Females entered dens earlier than males and emerged later; multiple den use by both sexes in a single winter was common. I recorded equal numbers of tree and ground dens, with ground dens at higher elevations surrounded by dense vegetation. Chronology and other denning characteristics of bears in Mississippi were similar to other black bear populations in the southeastern United States. Bears exhibited scale-dependent den-site selection selecting sites with greater percentage horizontal cover and farther from roads. Greater percentage horizontal cover may provide security and increase energetic efficiency. Denning farther from roads likely decreases risk of human disturbance.



scale dependence||Ursus americanus||road avoidance||risk-disturbance hypothesis||den use||den chronology