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Black Bears Scent Marking

4-20-18 black bear biteIn the Northeast, Black Bears typically emerge from their dens in April and mate sometime between mid-May and late June. Prior to mating, Black Bears of all ages and both sexes announce their presence to other bears by rubbing their scent on marking trees (maintaining several on their territory). These “trees” often include utility poles, such as the one pictured. While most of the marking is done by mature males during the mating season, this week’s storm provided proof that scent marking actually resumes in April soon after bears come out of hibernation.

Scent marking can include a bear’s rubbing its shoulders and neck against the tree/pole as well as clawing and biting the tree. Claw marks are usually quite shallow, but incisor bites are deep enough that pieces of bark and wood are sometimes pulled out.  This photograph shows where a Black Bear stood on its hind feet and with its head sideways, grabbed the pole with its mouth open and closed its jaws, scraping a horizontal groove across the pole as its upper and lower canine teeth came together.  The height of the bite was about six feet.

Fresh bear signs indicate that it’s time to bring bird feeders in (either permanently or, at the very least, at night), in order to avoid creating “nuisance” bears,  thereby putting the bears’ lives at risk.

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10 responses

  1. Alice Pratt

    That must be exciting to see big paw prints! If she was with you, how does Greta react?

    April 20, 2018 at 7:49 am

  2. Lenita Robbins

    This is so, so hard–especially with this weather when the gold finches+++have flocked to the feeder, the focal point from my kitchen window. “The” or “a” (saw tag on left ear, but didn’t notice a collar) came to our garden yesterday and I chased it with pots and pans, but that hurt too. It will be back–to find no feeders and a tree full of birds not understanding the sudden exit of a nutritius food supply! Maybe our little heated bird bath will continue to bring them–at least a few!

    Your information is so great, Mary–as well as your sharing pieces of your life. What a treasure YOU are!

    Cordially and gratefully,

    April 20, 2018 at 8:00 am

    • It is important to keep from attracting bears! Not sure if there is a way to keep bird food safe from bears, but the birds should be well equipped to feed on their natural diets without questionable commercial supplimentals. Maybe encourage or plant native seed and fruit producing vegetation……If we encourage natural areas and plant communities, our wildlife will be helped!

      April 20, 2018 at 8:53 am

  3. I see the tracks in snow but I wonder about the chipped wood on the pole so high up since poles are sometimes climbed by utility workers wearing spiked climbers…..?

    April 20, 2018 at 8:47 am

  4. Alice Pratt

    In the wild…birds do not have beefsuet available…but they are sure happy with the never ending supply I have for them. Same goes for birdseed….I buy expensive food…seeds, nuts, peanuts….and dried mealworms…very nourishing…and especially with the cold weather, they all seem very happy to come to the little dish feeders I have hanging on a tomato cage only a few feet from the house…they come flying so quickly when I fill the dishes multiple times a day….and they bring me so much joy! All the birds get to know you and come very close….so much fun to observe…..they would be elsewhere and not contributing to my enjoyment.

    April 20, 2018 at 9:24 am

  5. Bill On The Hill...

    The black bears are out here in the highlands of Corinth. A couple weeks back now, I had large tracks that encircled the house, along the side of the garage, back over to the side of the house and it was particularly attracted to the riding lawn mower, glad it didn’t make a meal of it… lol… I have 2 bear bushes on the south ridge of my property. This entire region is active bear country along with the occasional moose sightings, bull, cow & youngsters…
    Wildlife is abundant as I have a loaded portfolio full of them…
    Good advice Mary, feeders need to be put away…
    …Bill Farr @ WGF Studio53…

    April 20, 2018 at 9:28 am

  6. betsy stewart

    Mary what is the size of the territory of a Male and or female mature bear mid April ( 2018 ) in Hartland VT ?

    April 20, 2018 at 10:34 am

    • I’ve written F&W bear biologist to get details and will let you know, Betsy. I have read the following (in general): The home range of a female black bear is typically 2.5 to 10 square miles (6.4-25.9 square kilometers). Male black bears range over much larger areas and home ranges are 10 to 59 square miles (26-152 square kilometers).

      April 20, 2018 at 12:05 pm

      • Dave Taylor

        A bear visited us night before last. Got my bird feeder, but left my beehive alone. Thank you Mrs./Mr. Bear for that. I know how hungry the bears are, but I just hope honey is not on their wish list. Mary, wonderful news about baby!

        April 20, 2018 at 9:12 pm

  7. If you have bees and you have bears, you most certainly need to protect the hives from bears with electric fence or perhaps a strong enough cage……

    April 22, 2018 at 9:10 am

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