Researchers examining American black bear (Ursus americanus) denning behavior have relied primarily on den-site visitation and radiotelemetry to gather data. Repeated den-site visits are time-intensive and may disturb denning bears, possibly causing den abandonment, whereas radiotelemetry is sufficient only to provide gross data on den emergence. We used remote cameras to examine black bear denning behavior in the Allegheny Mountains of western Virginia during March-May 2003. We deployed cameras at 10 den sites and used 137 pictures of black bears. Adult female black bears exhibited greater extra-den activity than we expected prior to final den emergence, which occurred between April 12 and May 6, 2003. Our technique provided more accurate den-emergence estimation than previously published methodologies. Additionally, we observed seldom-documented behaviors associated with den exits and estimated cub age at den emergence. Remote cameras can provide unique insights into denning ecology, and we describe their potential application to reproductive, survival, and behavioral research.
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American black bear denning behavior: Observations and applications using remote photography