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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bear Scat - A Warning

 
    

Nature has its own early warning systems. One of the best ones in Southeast Alaska (as well as other parts of Alaska) is bear scat. It warns you when bears are in the area and when it would be a good idea not to take the trail you had been planning to take. I have no idea why it is called scat. At this time of year, late summer, it is certainly scattered all over. But I doubt that that is why it is called bear scat.

Some people can "read" scat: how old it is, how large the animal is, and what the bear has been eating. The last part is easy. As you can see from this photo, taken a few days ago near Haines, this bear had been eating seeds and weeds. How do enormous brown bears weighing more, sometimes much more, than 400 lbs. survive on plants? Although the salmon have started to spawn, this bear hasn't gotten lucky yet. I usually feel sorry for them when I see that they aren't eating salmon. That also serves as a warning. A bear who isn't eating salmon is probably hungry and then they resort to unconventional food. This sometimes happens toward the end of the season when they are heading into hibernation. One summer, a bear ate my foam bicycle seat, and I couldn't ride it anymore. That same bear got into a neighbor's car and ate a huge amount of foam from the back cushion of the backseat. That kind of hunger left people feeling a little nervous and more cautious than usual.

So when I see bear scat on a trail I want to take, it gives me information and serves as a warning. Sometimes you just take the road less traveled by bears.

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