Water is essential for hydration in American black bears (Ursus americanus) and other species; however, its role in thermoregulation is poorly understood. In 2010, we established a network of remote cameras to monitor wildlife in the Bitterroot Valley, Montana, USA. One of our objectives was to document and describe American black bear behavior at natural and artificial water sources. We detected male and female adult, subadult, and cub of year black bears immersing in water sources to thermoregulate. Bear use was concentrated at one livestock tank, one road puddle, and one pond in areas with relatively little human disturbance. Bear use steadily increased over summer, peaking in late summer when ambient temperatures were high and fat layers were thick. Our results demonstrate that water is an important thermoregulatory resource for some bear populations, though more research is needed to understand how ursids use behavioral thermoregulation to dissipate excess body heat and avoid hyperthermia.
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Vol. 27 • No. 2