ABR Head Curator Coy Blair has been hiking into the back country to retrieve dropped collars.  He will tell you that sometimes it is a real challenge, but recently he was helping a classmate and colleague who was also is retrieving collars that she put on bears in her study.  One of the bears she had collared was a large male that had made what Coy described as “The coolest bear den I’ve ever seen.”  Here are some photos of that den.

Coy

Coy shows us how challenging it is due to the thick undergrowth.

Much of the undergrowth in the mountains is what locals call “laurel hells” where laurel and rhododendron thickets are almost impossible for humans to get through.

den

Here is the den, tucked in under tangled branches and roots.

Den

A closer inspection reveals the bed of branches and leaves.

Coy in den

It was large enough for Coy to crawl inside to retrieve the GPS collar.

Some bears, particularly males, are still out and about.  Here is a photo that an ABR volunteer took after she put out her Christmas tree.  A bear came by to check it out.

Bear and tree

The bear didn’t stay long, as there was nothing edible.

Most bears in the Smokies have very likely gone into dens by now.  It’s almost time for the cubs of 2018 to be born, so females are in dens where those cubs will be born.