Almost every nature preservation creature on the planet has three basic concerns: eating, resting and reproducing.
How any one species, or even individuals within a species, go about filling those needs varies in more ways than could ever be documented.
And often that resting piece—building some kind of home, nest, or place to retreat—is a critical part to eating and reproducing.
Some species, like salmon, spend days sweeping away sand and debris from the bottom of creeks to clear the perfect spot to place their eggs. Others, like the giant Pacific octopus, crawl into caves and string tens of thousands of eggs the size of grains of rice into braids that hang from the roof.
They’re all looking for the same thing: A way to keep themselves and their young safe for as long as possible.
Most of us associate nesting with birds. We see their nests in our backyards and city parks. But other creatures build cool and fascinating nests, too.
Here’s a quick look into the lives of five North American species known for their unusual resting places.
Just Pick a Spot, Any Spot
We all learned about how black bears crawl into caves where they den for winter. And those living in places like Montana or Alaska do spend the longest months of the year cuddled deep in crevices to escape the snow and save calories.
But what about black bears living in relatively mild states like Arkansas?
Well, the first step to creating the perfect nest is to gather up as many leaves as possible, says Myron Means, statewide large carnivore program coordinator with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
They sweep up so many leaves or pine needles, in fact, that from the air Means says he looks for the “bare spot.” (The pun was intended).
From there, some bears will drag the leaves up into tree cavities where they will sleep on and off during winter, falling into a state of torpor or lethargy before waking occasionally to look for food. Males, in particular, will wander around throughout winter.
Other bears will scoot the aforementioned leaves or pine needles into rock crevices or underneath root balls of fallen trees to provide protection.
But some black bears won’t worry about finding another form of shelter, they simply build it themselves. From leaves.
And there they sleep, curled up in the middle of the forest in a gigantic pile of leaves more akin to a robins’ nest than anything you might expect created by a bear. Females collect enough duff underneath them that newborn cubs can feed and sleep between the ground and the mother’s belly.
And don’t worry about any vulnerabilities, Means says: “Nothing is going to mess with a mama bear.”