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Black Bears Emerging From Dens & Ejecting Fecal Plugs

This may look like Black Bear scat to many viewers and it is close to being just that, but technically it is a fecal plug.  A plug differs from scat in several ways.  Rather than passing through and out of the digestive system, it remains in the lower 7-15” of a bear’s intestine for four or five months, while the bear hibernates.  Unlike feces, which consist mostly of waste from digested food, a fecal plug, due to the length of time it spends in the intestine, contains a considerable amount of intestinal secretions and cells that have sloughed off the inside of the digestive tract.

Usually you find hair and bedding as well as recently-eaten indigestible food incorporated into a plug.  Prior to hibernation, Black Bears engage in grooming — licking and swallowing their fur and the leaves, etc. that are caught in it.  These indigestible materials end up in the plug.  During winter bears shed the calloused soles, or footpads, of their feet and it’s not uncommon to find pieces of them in a plug, as well.

Most plugs measure 1 ½” to 2 ½” in diameter and  7-15″ long. Fluids have been absorbed from the plug by the intestinal walls, leaving it quite dry and hard, and it has very little scent. If you happen to know where a bear has denned, the surroundings are a prime location for finding a plug, as the bear ejects it soon after emerging from its den in April. (Thanks to Andy Rowles and Erin Donahue for photo op.)

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7 responses

  1. Alice

    All the essential information I’ll ever need about a Black Bear’s fecal plug.

    April 20, 2020 at 8:32 am

  2. Bruce S. Thompson

    Do all hibernating mammals create and eject fecal plugs?

    April 20, 2020 at 8:37 am

    • Hi Bruce,
      I’m not aware of any other hibernating mammal that forms a plug, but that’s not to say there aren’t any!

      April 20, 2020 at 10:30 am

  3. Wonder/full!

    April 20, 2020 at 9:17 am

  4. kissingdogsnet

    Wow! So interesting!

    *Amy Robb* *BEMER Independent Distributor* amy-robb.bemergroup.com *603-381-1038* [image: Screen Shot 2019-07-08 at 6.34.52 PM.png] https://life.bemergroup.com/

    On Mon, Apr 20, 2020 at 7:22 AM Naturally Curious with Mary Holland wrote:

    > Mary Holland posted: “This may look like Black Bear scat to many viewers > and it is close to being just that, but technically it is a fecal plug. A > plug differs from scat in several ways. Rather than passing through and > out of the digestive system, it remains in the lower 7-1” >

    April 20, 2020 at 9:23 am

  5. louise homstead

    On my walk with my lab dog today, I saw such a plug (bigger, easjly 15″ long and 1.75″ in diameter. I looked up and about 300′ away a black bear was running around a pond in a cut field and up into the logging road into a deep woods. My dog wondered what that was! I live in Buckland, MA.

    April 21, 2020 at 2:09 pm

  6. If you felt like retrieving the plug and mailing it to me, I would gladly pay for the shipping! (134 Densmore Hill Road, Windsor, VT 05089)

    April 21, 2020 at 4:22 pm

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