Understanding factors influencing the timing of den entrance and emergence of black bears (Ursus americanus) provides insight for bear management. We determined den entrance and emergence dates for bears in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and related these dates to vegetative productivity, weather, habitat, and demographic factors to assess the influence of these factors on denning chronology. Date of den entrance was most strongly influenced by age class, precipitation, and proportion of human-use areas in annual home ranges. Den entrance was typically later for adult bears during wetter years and when annual home ranges contained a greater proportion of human-use areas. Sex and presence of human-use areas were most strongly related to den emergence. Male bears typically emerged from dens before females, and bears emerged from dens earlier when human-use areas composed a greater proportion of annual home ranges. Collectively, our results suggest that denning behavior of black bears in RMNP was strongly influenced by presence of human-use areas, likely because of foods associated with such areas. Managers of black bears in RMNP can use precipitation to predict relative dates of den entrance, thereby allowing for more efficient strategies to combat potentially negative human—black bear encounters.
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Vol. 70 • No. 1