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Black Bears Scent Marking In Winter

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.)

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7 responses

  1. Maureen Black

    Thanks Mary,

    I do enjoy your posts and my daughter from VT has gifted both myself and my grandsons many of your books. Here’s my morning visitor.

    Rinky Black, Erving, MA

    On Wednesday, December 11, 2019, Naturally Curious with Mary Holland wrote:

    > Mary Holland posted: “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” >

    December 11, 2019 at 8:08 am

    • Hi Maureen,
      Unfortunately WordPress does not allow your photo to come through. If you feel like emailing it to me (mholland@vermontel.net) I would love to see it!

      December 11, 2019 at 8:33 am

  2. Alice

    Maybe Bear just needed a good back-scratching….mmmmm a little to the tight…now the middle…ahhh.

    December 11, 2019 at 8:40 am

  3. Will Lange

    I know that very pole! “Alfred Balch” was the giveaway clue.

    December 11, 2019 at 10:31 am

    • I’m not surprised! They’re still coming to it!

      December 11, 2019 at 4:32 pm

  4. Sue

    Can the hibernation be intermittent? And if so, what can cause them to come out of the den? We had a mom and 3 youngsters on our deck on February 14th nearly 3 years ago.

    December 11, 2019 at 10:37 am

  5. Judith Losapio-Devitt

    There was a bear in my neighbor’s yard last week. Destroyed their feeders. Luckily he never made it up here!!! They say they are not in hibernation yet.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    December 11, 2019 at 11:56 am

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