Habitat selection is a hierarchical process in which animals select resources at varying spatial scales. Dens are a critical component of American black bear (Ursus americanus) habitat, yet scale-dependent den-site selection has received limited attention. Using habitat and topographic characteristics, we assessed scale-dependent den-site selection by 11 black bears during 20 den years in Mississippi, USA, at 3 spatial scales: den site (15 m), den area (100 m), and den landscape (1,000 m). Black bears in Mississippi exhibited scale-dependent den-site selection selecting greater percentage horizontal cover at the den area scale. Risk of flooding (i.e., elevation, distance to nearest stream), disturbance (i.e., distance to nearest stream or road), and habitat composition did not influence den-site selection at spatial scales measured. Greater percentage horizontal cover likely provides additional security and increases energetic efficiency. Selection for horizontal cover at finer spatial scales suggests security at den sites is a lower-order factor influencing fitness.
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Vol. 38 • No. 3