We evaluated selection of den sites by American black bears (Ursus americanus) in the Pisgah Bear Sanctuary, western North Carolina, by comparing characteristics of dens at 53 den sites with availability of habitat characteristics in annual home ranges of bears and in the study area. We also tested whether den-site selection differed by sex, age, and reproductive status of bears. In addition, we evaluated whether the den component of an existing habitat model for black bears predicted where bears would select den sites. We found bears selected den sites far from gravel roads, on steep slopes, and at high elevations relative to what was available in both annual home ranges and in the study area. Den-site selection did not differ by sex or age, but it differed by reproductive status. Adult females with cubs preferred to den in areas that were relatively far from gravel roads, but adult females without cubs did not. The habitat model overestimated the value of areas near gravel roads, underestimated the value of moderately steep areas, and did not include elevation as a predictor variable. Our results highlight the importance of evaluating den selection in terms of both use and availability of den characteristics.
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