Curator Coy is working hard on his Master’s thesis and the research into the habits of ABR cubs who were cared for last year.  You may remember that when they were released they were fitted with GPS collars that permit Coy to view their travels on his computer.  Since  the cubs have denned  he is tracking them to find out where they have settled for the winter and what kinds of dens they have made for themselves.  In this post we are sharing photos that Coy took when he found a couple of the dens.  You’ll notice that there is a bear visible in one of them!

Although many people think that bears den in caves, that is not a usual den site, especially in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  For one thing, there simply aren’t enough caves for all the bears.  Furthermore, a bear needs a space small enough that its body heat will warm it sufficiently.  Caves are too large.

In our area, trees are the most popular den locations.  Sometimes a bear will den in a hollow tree perhaps 50-60 feet above the ground.  Sows that are giving birth often choose these lofty dens as places that provide safety for the newborns.

The dens that Coy found are in trees, although not high up.

den in tree

The red arrow points to the den in this tree in the park.

Here is Greg, former ABR Assistant Curator, who accompanied Coy on the den-finding trek.  Coy must take someone with him when he is going into the backcountry.


Greg stands next to the den in the tree.

Here is a closer look at the den.

bear den

No one was home, but it is obvious that it has been used by a bear.

Here is another den, in the roots of a large tree.  And there is the sleeping bear!

Bear in den

The bear is tucked into a snug den at the base of the tree.

Curator Coy tells us that this is one of the ABR bears.  He just won’t say which one.  If you notice the burned area to the right, that was from the fires that swept through the area in late November.  Coy had tracked the bears that were in the area and noted that they had left before the fire.  But this one came back to find a den after the danger had passed.