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Research article2015Peer reviewedOpen access

Den Entry Behavior in Scandinavian Brown Bears: Implications for Preventing Human Injuries

Sahlén, Veronica; Friebe, Andrea; Saebö, Solve; Swenson, Jon E.; Stoen, Ole-Gunnar


Encounters between Scandinavian brown bears (Ursus arctos) and humans that result in human injuries and fatalities typically coincide with den entry in October and November, and commonly occur near a den. Our aim was to determine when bears arrive at their dens, identify potential predictors of this event, document behavior and activity associated with this period, and attempt to explain the increased risk of bear-caused human injuries in this period. We analyzed global positioning system (GPS) location and activity data from brown bears in south-central Sweden, using generalized linear mixed models, statistical process control, and activity analyses. Bears arrived at their den sites between 6 October and 1 December. Timing varied by reproductive category, bear age, and year. Half of all bears significantly reduced their activity before arriving at the den area: on average 2,169m away from the den and 1.8 days before arrival. The other half reduced their activity after arriving at the den area. The latter bears took longer time to reach hibernation activity levels, but we did not find a difference in the start date of hibernation between the 2 groups. Bears also appeared to be sensitive to disturbance in this period, with higher den abandonment rates than later in winter, particularly for males and for bears that had not visited their den sites previously. Den entry occurred from October to December, with high variability and poor predictability of its timing. Therefore, restricting hunting or other recreation activities to reduce risk of injury by bears and disturbing bears probably would be both impractical and ineffective. Our findings can be used to educate hunters about bear behavior at this time of year. Many people associate dens with an increased risk of a bear responding aggressively to disturbance to defend its den, but our results indicate that other behavioral, and possibly physiological, changes in this period also may be involved. (c) 2014 The Authors. The Journal of Wildlife Management published by The Wildlife Society.


bear-human conflict; bear management; behavior; brown bear; den entry; pre-denning activity; Scandinavia; Ursus arctos

Published in

Journal of Wildlife Management
2015, Volume: 79, number: 2, pages: 274-287

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Fish and Wildlife Management
      Behavioral Sciences Biology

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