View Full Version : bear sign
07-31-2010, 02:55 PM
I was fishing little river below elkmont today and noticed alot of bear tracks in some sandy areas along the river..judging by the distance between the tracks Id say it was smaller bear, however it made me kind of jumpy. Any of you guys ever run across bear sign like that and get "jumpy"? I noticed I started looking towards every little sound coming from the woods, and everytime I got the chance I would scan and peer for dark moving objects.. Childish and jumpy i know, but I couldnt help it. Now I know that bears cover alot of ground in a typical day, and that those tracks could have been made by a bear that was 20 miles away by the time I fished through there.. However, I do know that they werent over a day and half old. We got a hard rain thursday night, and the sand was "cleaned" of old boot and foot prints. It made me also glad that there isnt more sand along the little river. If i knew how often bears walked up and down that river bank, Id probably never fish there again!!
07-31-2010, 05:15 PM
2weightfavorite--If you pay a lot of attention (I do, since I've been an avid woodsman, hunter, and trapper almost all my life) you see bear sign this time of year on a quite regulary basis. Scat on the trails, tracks along the creeks, turned over stumps in the woods, broken berry briars in clearings, and more. Just last week a smallis--125-150 pounds bear tore across the stream not 25 yards in front of me on Deep Creek. I wasn't too far upstream--just above the bridge at the upper end of the Jenkins Fields. He was going like the Devil had singed his tail and then sent an army of imps in pursuit. He never saw me, and I initially assumed there might be a bigger bear chasing him (he was of about the size of a one which a mother runs off and which is at a loss in finding roaming gorund of its own). However, nothing followed and so I assumed someone on the trail must have spooked the bear.
I've had dozens of encounters over the years, a couple of them pretty up close and personal back in my younger days, but I've never been overly worried in the Smokies. Out west is another story. I once spent a night in a tree on the Thorofare River (a feeder of the Yellowstone just out of Yellowstone Park) with a grizzly underneath me. I was by myself, in between trips with an outfitter with whom I was in a partnership, and I had stayed in camp rather than face a 25-mile horseback ride out and the same trip back in two days later. The grizzly unfortunately got into a supposedly bear-proof pannier (one of the wranglers had foolishly failed to secure the pin), and once it got food it wasn't leaving. It actually came back a second night but that time I was more or less ready. I had fashioned me a home-made ladder and managed to shinny up into a platform the outfitter used to store elk meat in the fall. It was big enough for my sleeping bag.
Sure enough, old griz came back a seocnd night, but this time things ended in my favor. It picked up a 16-ounce can of insect repelleant and smelled it twice, then, despite evidently not liking the smell, the third time it crunched the can. The pressurized contents exploded in its mouth and you never heard such a caterwauling or saw such a conniption fit. The bear hit the nearby stream in a dead run, knocking over most everything in its way, and for a good ten minutes I could hear it trying to get the stuff out of its mouth. No more bear trouble, but dealing with black bears is one thing; grizzlies a whole different story (I've had encounters with them in Alaska as well, but nothing approaching the situation in Wyoming).
Bottom line, I'm reasonably cautious and aware of my surroundings in the Smokies, but I don't worry about black bears otherwise.
HA HA, nice story Jim. I almost feel sorry for the grizzly.
08-01-2010, 05:58 AM
You can NOT judge a bears size by how deep his print goes into sand, mud, dirt, ect.. however, you can get a rather good estimation as to whether your dealing with a grown bear, juvenile or cub. This method has been used by Alaskan guides for years. If you take the print of a bear and measure it width wise in inches then add a 1 to that measurement you have a rough estimate in feet as to how long (or tall however you want to put it) the bear is. If you have a track that measures 4 and 1/2 inches across then add 1 to that then you have a 5 and 1/2 foot long (tall) bear. Give or take an inch or two...;). This is about the average for an adult black bear in the park male or female. If you have anything over that your looking at the track of most likely an adult male bear. Anything smaller than say 3 1/2" is a cub or juvenile. That's when you start to watching the woods. You may actually be surprised as to how little a bear will move if not searching for food. Give them a nice berry patch or white oak tree loaded with acorns and he MAY only move 100 yards away. He will lay in a nice shaded place where he can over look his goodies. A bear in search of food will cover the ground but, again, unless "pushed" he's going to amble threw the woods at a slow pace picking at anything he comes across. He's on the other side of that calorie watching coin. He's going to conserve them hard earned babies. If you want to know if the bear that your looking at is an adult or juvenile there are some indicators. If the ears are tall and spaced close together you have a smaller (juvi)bear. If they are short and look like they set on the side of the head it's a bigger (adult)bear. If he walks like he's jointed in the middle he's a big bear. If he's running (like Jim said) and another bear is chasing him... the last one is the bigger of the two. Big is also a relative term as far as bears in East TN go. A BIG bear here is 350#. Most of the 300# bears people talk about seeing are actually more along the lines of 150# ers. There are the fatties (450# +) don't get me wrong they just aren't the norm. That's someone's "pet" bear that's been fed off the porch everyday. A true BIG black bear can be found on the Alaskan coast or as close as the Eastern coast of N.C. where they grow peanuts and a BIG bear is 650# or bigger. These bears can stand close to 7 foot tall. I believe the tallest black bear (don't quote me) height wise stood alittle over 8 foot tall. 8'3" I believe. Anyways, theres some bear info if you wanted to know it.
08-01-2010, 09:45 AM
Bear sign I found up about 7 ft off the ground. Thomas divide trail in the background.
08-01-2010, 10:23 AM
Adam--Although that is probably bear sign, it isn't a certainty just from the tree alone. How high up was it? What type of year did you take the photo? Where was it taken?
The reason I ask is that this could possible be a elk rub or a deer rub. Both can and do tear bark from bushes and trees in this fashion, although the size of this particular one seems large. That being said, there's nothing there which really offers comparison, and I don't see any sign of the normal claw marks one would expect. The cross markings appear to me to be where insects borers of some kind had been beneath the cadium (if that's the right term for the inner layer of bark).
Just curious, and I would add that if this was done by a whitetail buck he's got to be a bruiser.
08-01-2010, 05:35 PM
FYI, it is called the cambium. The bears scrap off the outer bark to get to the vascular cambium (sap & nutrients-particularly sucrose). In my years as a forester & fisherman, I have seen what bears can do to trees--particularly out west where bears can do major damage to a stand of trees.
08-01-2010, 08:22 PM
There are several dozen trees like this in the area. One side of the tree will be scratched up while the other side has bite marks in them. Various trees in this area are "freshened" ever year. As you can see, it is quite steep. All these marks are head high, or over my head (6') and are located along a game trail that goes through a gap in the mountain.
08-01-2010, 09:23 PM
Buzz. I've often wondered about "marker" trees. I've also gotten into deep debates over them with friends. Some people believe that a bear ONLY marks the tree while standing on it's hind legs. It also marks the tree by biting it and tearing out a piece of bark. This isn't the debated part and yes, I believe that's accurate however, if a bear stands on it's hind legs to bite how can some fresh (weeks old) bite marks be over 10 foot off the ground. I believe that they do climb a short ways up the tree and bite it and other's say that's untrue and they simply reach up and bite it. If my thoughts are true is this done by a smaller bear trying to make the other boar bear think he is larger than he really is? If he really does simply stand flat footed and do it how do you account for the mark being 10 foot off the ground? I know that tree didn't grow 3-4 feet in two weeks. I would like to place a trail camera on an active marker tree to find out. Another thing bears do to mark territory is by snapping the tops out of small (usually less that 10 foot tall) pine trees. It looks like an elk has done it but, infact it's a bear. This is in areas where elk are nonexistant. Out in Oregon and Washington state this happens alot on the paper mill lands and hunters payed by the paper mill and legalized by the state are sent in to thin down the populations. Another little known thing a bear will do is wallow like a hog. I have saw alot of evidence of this in the hotter months.
08-01-2010, 10:20 PM
Hey Jim I took the pic around June 5th of last year. The markings were up about 7 ft high I held the camera up to get a shot. If you look close at the pic up on the left of the top two claw marks you can see where they start out on the bark part and then continued across into the cambium part. I took it on the Thomas Divide Trail near where it intersects with the Newton Bald trail. It looked fresh although that was early June. In November of last year along the AT going up to Shuckstack I found 3 or 4 small (maybe 5 ft tall) pine sapplings that had all been freshly broke over in two and scratched up also. Found a lot of black bear hair in those. June and November seem pretty far apart Jim what months or times do bears normally engage in that kind of activity?
One other very strange thing I saw on that November hike was on the Lost Cove trail off on a ridge I saw a tree that had been torn or stripped of its bark as if girdled all the way around beginning way up about 25 feet off the ground and continuing down the tree to almost ground level. Surrounding the tree at the bottom it looked like sawdust or lots of loose strips of wood. I didn't get a good pic cause it was off a ways but wish I had now. Anyone ever seen something like that? It was as if someone climbed 25 feet up in the tree with a chainsaw and carved the bark all the way down. Also looked freshly done.
I like the pics buzz and for some reason I don't think I would want to stumble up on that fellow when he was trashing that tree.
08-02-2010, 07:24 AM
ruggerfly--Thanks. I knew the word started with a "c" and ended in "ium," but it just wouldn't come to me (and I was too lazy to look it up!).
08-02-2010, 07:27 AM
Buzz--Those are some interesting photos for sure. They all appear to be of pines. Is that the only species of tree so marked?
08-02-2010, 07:31 AM
Adam--Those details leave no doubt it was a bear that did this. I can't answer your other questions, but I suspect a bear is sort of like an old cow, if his back is itching then a rub against a fence post (or for the bear, a tree, is the answer.
The other description of a "shredded" tree totally mystifies me. I've never seen anything like that.
08-02-2010, 03:03 PM
Jim, They were all pines. I looked around quite a bit to try and find another species so marked, however pines are the only ones I could come up with. It is also apparent that they have been marking the sames trees for many years. They were heavilly sapped over, some had an inch worth of sap that had bleed out and had dried running to the ground.
FishandHunt, I didn't notice any trees marked higher than what a good sized bear could reach from the ground, however, I didn't think to look. You've got my curiousity going and I might have to check it out again when hunting season rolls around. All the bite marks were on the uphill side of the trees, and it was apparent that they wanted to make them appear as tall as possible. I did put a trail camera on some of them for a while and all I got was pictures of coons, coyotes, and deer.
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