Den Work Summary - Spring 2003
by Katie Settlage
We monitored 24 female bears for denning activity during
the 2003 winter season. Bear dens were initially located by
ground telemetry. For 11 bears, the signal was not heard.
This can occur when the female is located in a remote area
and her signal is muffled or blocked by terrain, but it can
also occur when the battery on her collar expires, as is
likely the case with most of our unlocated bears this
For three bears the signal was heard but the den site
could not be located because of early den emergence, due in
part to a few weeks of unusually warm weather in March. One
bear dropped her radiocollar while it was still
transmitting, so we were able to locate and retrieve it. We
located and visited eight dens. Six of these dens were tree
dens, and the remaining two dens were on the ground. We
observed three females with cubs, with litter sizes ranging
from one to three. Three females had yearlings in their tree
dens (for each female, we were only able to observe one
yearling in the den). Due to poor den access, the presence
of cubs or yearlings could not be verified for two other
One of the females we located had received a foster cub
from the Appalachian Bear Center in Townsend last winter.
This female (#1664) was located on March 9, 2003 in the base
of a hollow tree. She was observed with at least one
yearling at that time, but she had subsequently emerged on
March 14 when we returned to attempt immobilization. We were
hoping to immobilize her and determine if the yearling we
observed was the foster cub or one of her own cubs.
Unfortunately, her collar had been chewed off in the den by
her yearling. We hope to capture her again this summer so
that we can put a new collar on her and continue to track
Another noteworthy tree den was occupied by the same
female (#1281/1654) that had used it in 2002, and that same
den was also used by a different female (#797) twice, once
in 1990 and again in 1991. We hope to perform DNA analysis
on hair samples from these two individuals to determine if
perhaps they are mother and daughter.
About the author:
Katie Settlage is a Graduate Research Assistant at the
University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
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