Bears do sleep in trees. However, they only sleep in trees during non-hibernation months. They will sleep in dens during hibernation months.
Because bears roam far and wide, they do not have the same place to sleep every night. A male bear’s roaming range is often over 100 square miles in size (while female territories are much smaller). Thus, they will seek places like trees as a temporary rest stop.
Why do Bears Sleep in Trees?
Bears will sleep in trees to seek safety from humans or other bears who may try to chase them away. They will likely spend a few hours up the tree dozing to save energy and relax before moving along.
A tree also provides a good vantage point for a bear to see potential dangers headed their way. A common danger to bears is other more dominant bears (sometimes colloquially called alpha bears) who might chase them away from food sources or potential mates.
They also see humans as dangers, so can retreat up trees to get away from humans. They’re commonly found in trees in residential locations because the tree is one of their few places to escape when there aren’t wooded areas to retreat to.
Read More: Can Bears Climb Trees?
Unfortunately, dogs will also intimidate bears in residential areas, leading bears to retreat up trees. Despite being larger than dogs, bears are skittish creatures who often respond to aggressive animal behaviors by retreating.
Here’s a television segment about what happens when bears sleep up trees in residential neighborhoods:
Another reason bears find themselves in trees is to raid bird nests.
While bears rarely catch birds (who are too quick for a bear), they will happily raid bird nests for eggs and to each chicks. In fact, in some areas, the issue of bears eating bird eggs can be a threat to the health of bird populations.
Do Bears Sleep in Hollow Tree Logs?
In the forest, hollow tree logs represent a safe place to bears to hide. They will often seek out hollow trees to hide inside in order to stay secluded and out of the way of potential dangers.
Just like in residential areas, bears face threats that worry them in the forest. They tend to be skittish animals that prefer not to fight. So, when seeking a place to rest, they will retreat to anything that can give them some protection. Tree logs are one common place where they can hide.
It’s more common to find young bears in tree logs because they will outgrow the logs eventually and not be able to get inside.
If you find a young bear or cub inside a tree log, leave it a lot of space and let it continue to do what it’s doing. Don’t let your dog bark at it. If it’s a cub, there’s a very high probability its siblings and mother are nearby.
Mothers are very protective of their young, so you may be in danger if you get between the mother and its cub.
Do Bears Sleep Under Fallen Trees?
Yes, bears sleep under fallen trees. They like to find secluded spaces to hide and sleep deep within the forest.
Fallen trees represent a nice hiding spot for bears, especially those who are too big to sleep within hollow logs anymore.
In fact, fallen trees often from excellent locations for winter dens. When a tree falls, the roots often rip up the soil around the base of the tree, creating holes in the ground that are perfect for bears to create a den.
Generally, the den is constructed out of the base of the fallen tree, in and around the roots and disturbed soil, and not below the logs themselves.
Why do Bears Scratch Trees?
Bears will scratch trees for two main reasons. Firstly, they like to eat sapwood from under tree bark, especially in early spring. Secondly, during mating season, they will scratch trees and rub against them to mark their territory.
Bears will scratch at trees in early spring to get access to the tasty sapwood underneath the first layers of bark. When bears emerge out of hibernation, their main food sources like young ungulates and berries are not yet abundant. To get much-needed sustenance, bears will resort to scratching at trees to lick at the sap.
Later in the spring, especially in June, bears will also scratch at trees to mark their territory. They may also rub against them to mark their scent against the trees.
While bears aren’t usually very territorial and can tolerate one another’s presence, they may mark territory during mating season. Scratching at trees is a sign to other males to keep away, but also a welcome sign to females, suggesting they can find a willing male mate in the area.
Do Bears Hurt Trees?
Yes, bears cause damage to trees which can occasionally lead the tree to die. While it’s a concern to some in the forestry industry, park rangers will often see bear markings on trees as a good sign that bears are healthy and roaming in their natural habitat.
Scratchings against trees will only kill the tree if it’s extensive enough to prohibit nutrients from passing from the roots up to the upper branches and leaves. The external layers of trees are usually dead wood which can be damaged without causing long-term damage to the tree. But deeper damage will destabilize the tree, leading it to either dying through lack of nutrition or falling.
Trees with bear markings in residential areas where a fallen tree can damage people or property should be examined by a professional arborist to assess whether the tree should be removed.
Bears do sleep in trees. They will sleep up a tree they have climbed to get away from potential harm while they nap in the middle of the day. They will also sleep beneath fallen trees and in hollow logs.
Their dens can also be made from the holes in the ground that fallen trees and tree roots create.