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bear scat

Watch For The Signs --


How can you tell if bears have been frequenting the area? They leave many signs behind. Learning to look for the signs of bears can also alert you potential problems before they occur, especially if the signs are fresh. You should also learn to tell the difference between black and grizzly bears from a distance. Click here to learn more




Bear scat is another good indicator of bear activity. It is a good practice not to touch scat with your hands while examining it. Don't spend a lot of time trying to differentiate between black bear and grizzly scat as the two are even difficult to tell apart in the lab. Historically, biologists have used a simple estimate that scats in excess of 5 cm (2 in) in diametre generally belong to grizzlies. Unfortunately, during research conducted by Stephen Herrero, 58 percent of grizzly scats were actually smaller than 5 cm in diametre, thus proving this rule inaccurate. The scat varies quite dramatically based on what the bear is eating at a particular time of year. During August, when the bears are fattening up on buffaloberries, the scat takes on a blackish-red appearance with plenty of buffaloberry seeds visible. If a cursory examination shows the remains of roots, or tubers, the scat likely belongs to a grizzly since black bears lack the claws to reliably dig up these plants.


Bears may feed upon a large carcass for several weeks, and surprising a bear at this time can be very dangerous. Stephen Herrero suggests learning to identify scat of bears that have been feeding on meat so that you can use this as a sign to leave the area, or at least to be very vigilant. When bears are feeding on meat, the scat is usually black and runny. Their may be some hair visible. While scat made up of plant material may also be black, it is usually more fibrous in nature. Also, scat made up of meat remains tends to smell whereas plant scat does not. Examining the scat can tell you how fresh it is. For instance, have insects colonized it yet? Are the plants underneath the scat still fresh and green or have they yellowed? If the scat is heavily concentrated within a small area, you may have also located a bedding down area. While most are used only briefly, check for other signs of bears such as hair or hollow scrapes on the ground. If you find evidence of garbage in the scat, you may have a habituated bear in the area and you may want to move on.



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Taken on June 14, 2008