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grizzly bears with scat-2

After she finished taking a bath, and rounded up her cubs, this grizzly sow made a beeline to these scat piles she found on the beach which were left by another sow.  She spent several minutes looking at and sniffing the scat, and ensured that both of her cubs did so as well.

What can a bear learn from another bear’s calling card?  Probably the most important information is what the other bear’s been feeding on.  The leaver of this scat has obviously been eating a lot of grasses–you can see the partially digested blades in the scat–but that’s these bears’ primary food source in late July.  Notice how the lumps of scat are well-formed, like that from a horse?

If a bear has been feeding on a lot of berries, that’s also evident in the scat.  If you look closely, you may even be able to tell what type of berries.  In addition to berry seeds, some leaves and stems from the berry plant are often present as well.  A personal observation is that the scat of berry-feeding bears is, um, runnier than the scat of grass-feeding bears.  Come to think of it, when I eat a lot of berries…well, never mind.

The bears in this area also eat a lot of razor clams, and evidence of that would be in the scat as well.

Finally, if a bear has been feeding on fish, that would also be obvious–at least to another bear–from looking at and/or smelling the scat.  Since late July and early August is right when the salmon start running in this part of Alaska, noticing that another bear has already begun feeding on salmon would tell this sow to head for a good fishing spot on the river.  Salmon is the most nutritious and calorie-rich food these bears rely on to fatten themselves and their cubs before winter.  Instead of “wasting” a trip to the river to find the fish aren’t running yet, checking another bear’s scat on the beach will give this bear that information “long-distance,” as it were.

So the next time someone tries to tell you “You don’t know s***,” you can tell them they’re wrong:  you DO know s***.  Or at least you know bear s***, and that’s no bulls***!

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