Bear Week: Happy Dens Day

Published 4:38 pm Wednesday, March 29, 2023

JACKSON — It is no longer Wednesday but DensDay according to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. Mississippi is home to around 150 black bears and in celebration of the growing population the department is holding Bear Week. 

Throughout the week, MDWFP is sharing information and content about Black Bears. Yesterday, the department shared fascinating information about a bear traveling all over the delta north of Vicksburg and shared plans to unveil a webpage where Mississippians could follow GPS collared bears in real time. 

Wednesday is being celebrated as Den’s Day. Bears use two types of denning structures to make their homes. Dens can be in trees or on the ground. 

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“Dens could be in slash piles, briar patches, creek banks or inside hollow trees,” MDWFP wrote. “Bears den for two reasons. To overcome food scarcity brought on by the winter and to birth and nurse cubs until they are able to keep up with an adult sow.” 

MDWFP explained bears do not technically hibernate but they do go through periods of torpor or lethargy. During their lethargic time, bears suppress body temperature, respiration and metabolism and rely on fat reserves accumulated during the summer and fall. A bear’s metabolism can drop by 50 percent during this lethargy and heart rates drop to 15 to 30 beats per minute. 

Dens are important to MDWFP research and monitoring reproduction of the black bear population. MDWFP states biologists and technicians will locate collared females in their winter dens in early March. 

“The female will then be sedated to allow biologists to adjust/replace the radio collar and/or collect data from the cubs,” MDWFP’s website said. “Each cub is marked with a PIT tag, which is a tiny microchip implanted just under the skin. This tag can be scanned to identify that bear for years or even decades later.”

Bear sightings

Spring is here which means bears do not need to den up due to the high amount of food available to them on the landscape. They also start to travel more during the mating season in late spring and early summer. 

As a result, more bears are seen by humans when they are most active. MDWFP recently published a webpage showing where bears have been seen. Since 2016, 266 reports of black bear sightings have been reported. Mississippians reported 358 bears statewide since 2016..

Black bears are most prevalent along the Gulf Coast, in the Delta and the Southwest region of Mississippi. 2018 was the most active year for bear sightings as 71 bears were spotted and reported in Mississippi. 

One of those sightings was in Lincoln County in the West Lincoln Community near Hurricane Lake and south of US84. Another sighting close to Lincoln County was along MS 550 on the southeast of Union Church.