Congratulations to Rinky for being the first person to correctly identify that a Black Bear had been rubbing its back side against a utility pole in Monday’s Mystery Photo! A vast majority of responses were correct! Because of the relatively warm fall we’ve had and the ample food supply, Black Bears are still active in much of northern New England. There is a limited amount of time when bears are awake and snow is on the ground, allowing you to see what they’ve been up to. This year they are still feeding fast and furiously and, as the tracks in the snow confirm, scent marking.
Black Bears of all ages and both sexes engage in scent marking – rubbing their scent on trees and telephone poles (as well as biting and scratching them) that are often located along travel corridors. Scent marking typically occurs during the breeding season in June, when males, especially, announce their presence by standing with their back to a tree or pole (often one that leans) and rub their shoulders, neck and back against it, leaving their scent.
The tracks in Monday’s Mystery Photo were discovered recently at the base of a utility pole in New Hampshire. One look at the tracks’ position, pointing away from the pole, tells you that the bear that made them was facing away from the pole and rubbing his back side against it – proof that scent marking is not limited to the breeding season. (Photo: Black Bear scent marking the same pole in mating season, taken by Alfred Balch)
(If you are feeding birds, it would be wise to bring your feeders in at night until we’ve had enough cold weather to drive Black Bears into hibernation.)
Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.