Photos and text copyright Romping and Rolling in the Rockies 2009-2017.

All photographs and text within this blog are copyrighted.

You may not copy or repost any photos or text without specific permission from the author of this blog. When in doubt, please ask.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A bear marks a whammy tree

Yesterday evening, we headed out into endless gray skies. We desperately need water but all that we’ve gotten has been clouds. The wildlife seems to be everywhere, foraging and trying to make it until spring truly starts. You’ll see at the end of this post that some huge and strong animals are roaming our forests.

Because we’ve been seeing so many animals on our hikes, I’m emphasizing training even more. Last evening, we started with a stay which was supposed to lead to a recall. Look at R’s ears in this photo. The boy was NOT focused on me!
Then, even K turned away from me to scan behind her.
In the next instant, they both broke their stays. I don’t know what triggered their whirling and intense sprint away from me. Fortunately, a very sharp “leave it” and “come” stopped them and made them return to me. I put them back on leash until we walked further away from whatever had spooked them.
A quarter mile later, we tried again. The stay did not look promising because all four eyes were focused away from me.
But, the recall was beautiful so they earned their off-leash time.

A little later, they had calmed down enough to do a "stand-stay" for me. For some reason, staying while standing is much harder than lying down or sitting for them.
That was followed by a recall that required scrambling through a jumble of boulders.
The sunset painted a mystical picture to the east of us, and our hike ended peacefully and calmly.

This morning, I checked two wildlife cameras. After months of paltry results from my cams, I had another jackpot. My wildlife cameras have truly taught me how important it is to my dogs' health and the well-being of the wild animals that I continue to train my dogs to behave well in the forest. There are tiny cubs who the dogs could hurt. Conversely, our forest contains huge male bears and mountain lions who could hurt the dogs.

In my wildlife camera footage, first, a bobcat walked past the same camera as the bear family passed recently.
Then, on the next day, a male bear walked past the same camera and scent-marked a bear “whammy” tree. These trees are pine saplings that the bears rub their backs on. After I learned about these trees, I couldn't believe that I'd never noticed them before. They’re so obvious with their broken tips and branches and the bear fur stuck to their sap. I have several of these trees staked out with wildlife cameras.

The arrival of the bear...
He immediately commenced “cowboy walking” as he approached the whammy tree. Notice his left hind leg swung way out to the side. Bears do this crazy walk before and after marking a tree.
Then, he started to lean back with his black fur against the tree.
Finally, he rubbed his back against the tree. This marking was much less intense than I saw during last year’s mating season. During mating season, the bears kept wriggling against the tree much longer and much harder. They also grabbed the tiptop of the tree to rub it against their shoulders.
When he finished marking, he started to walk up the path but suddenly stopped and looked back at my camera. I wonder if he heard its shutter. I can’t hear it but I’ve been told that some animals can. In this photo, you can see the bad news. This bear has two ear tags, indicating that he has “two strikes” for bad behavior. My understanding is that he has only one more strike before being killed. I hope that this huge specimen can find enough natural food that he’ll stay away from houses.
About 45 minutes later, the bear passed another of my cameras that is a little less than a mile away. Either he walked very slowly or he didn’t follow a straight path between the two cameras. The second camera is also pointed at a whammy tree. At that tree, the bear “cowboy walked” but didn’t scent mark it.

I’ve compiled the footage from both cameras into a short video which you can watch here or at Youtube.
The sheer size of this bear demonstrates why I am so cautious with our dogs when we hike near our house. He's huge and fat despite an entire winter of fasting. Wow.

For those of you who asked if I was scared to travel where the bears are, I am always alert but not scared. I’ve never met a bear who didn’t run from me or hide. Indeed, I’ve stumbled upon and peered into a bear den. On that occasion, I met the eyes of a sow who had two cubs in the cave with her. She stayed in the den and wasn’t at all aggressive. Just in case a situation ever gets bad, I always have my bear pepper spray with me. However, I doubt that I’ll ever have to use it - bears are far more timid than the popular media portrays them as being.


  1. How many females does a male bear typically mate with each year? I wonder how many of his offspring you've seen around. He is one big fellow!

    I love those flipbook videos you do!

  2. Wow! You can really get a sense of the size of the bear marking the trees. I can't imagine ever running into one of them!! They are just so massive. Very cool footage. Stay safe!

  3. Todays photos have hit the jackpot. The bear rubbing his back on the whammy tree is superb.

  4. These photos are absolutely amazing! I really admire your training and work with your dogs to keep them safe letting them off leash in bear etc. country. Those are some lucky and well trained pups.


  5. WOW! That is a big bear for this early in the spring. It makes the one I posted look like a cub :).

  6. Hi Y'all,

    Beautiful post.

    When it's warm I keep Hawk away from rocks and stop him from sniffing in grass, even in the yard, if I see his ears prick. I'm afraid he'll stick a nose near a poisonous snake.

    Personally, I'm more afraid of meeting up with dangerous humans than meeting up with dangerous wildlife.

    Stay safe, happy and healthy,
    BrownDog's Momma

  7. Wow! That bear is HUGE! So a bear is tagged when he attacks? humans or wildlife animals? That is so interesting, I never knew they were tracked that way.

  8. To answer Jen, a bear is tagged if he hangs around homes too much looking for human food. The sad part is that if people would make their birdfeeders and grills inaccessible, this wouldn't be a problem. Also, people need to lock their dog doors very securely because bears enter houses through them.

    I haven't heard of a bear attack around here in all the time that I've lived here. So. this bear certainly did not attack a human.

  9. Beautiful pictures again!! The bear is really big!! I hope she makes it and doesn't get killed because of looking for food. It's their country too! Every so often we have black bears wander off of the mountains into the city and they are chased down. Sometimes this goes for for a few days before someone catches it and then they are taken back to the mountains and released to the wild. A town close to us had a bear actually wander into the hospital ER one night! The doors were open...why not! That was on the news for many days!! Lots of love, Holly and mom

  10. Wow, that's got to be Smokey the bear
    Benny & Lily

  11. Shiloh'n Shasta alert - we r nu followerz - our mom iz at werk rite now butt we want her tu c your blog when she gitz home - beautiful pikchurz.

  12. Puddles mum here...amazing camera shots! I was going to say that when ever there is a cub there is a momma close by and that scares me! My dad goes to Canada every year horseback riding in the Canadian Rockies. There was a guy that walked between a mom and her cub and she almost took his head off...he was hospitalized for about 4 months. However, I want to say that your knowlege of your surroundongs amazes me and I have all the faith and confidence in you.

    Allison...Puddles mum
    PS: thankd for the response to my question

  13. I echo Puddles Mom concern...Jim and I were in the Cdn Rockies years ago and witnessed a few moments of total fear while walking switchbacks up the Soho National Park. We had noise makers and obviously made it through the few tense moments. No matter, I still love the mountains and would hike them again. Re: K & R...they were distracted and kudos to your training skills.

  14. That bear definitely must be the Papa Bear that Goldilocks ran from:) He is humongous!!!

    Great job with the pups' training and you DO know how to read them. Glad you leashed them for a bit.

  15. OMD! He is standing on two legs! I am kind of scared of this GIANT bear!

    Your pal, Pip

  16. The bear is way bigger than I thought him to be, especially when he stand up!
    His feet are huge too.

  17. Oh KB! Gteat "capture!" That guy is HUGE. Echoing others sending kudos to you and the duo for all your hard work training!!

  18. Cool photos! It must be so exciting to find pictures like that on your cameras. I've wondered about how threatening the animals are to people too as I consider tenting it in the Colorado mountains. I wish I had a van or my truck had a topper to sleep inside.

  19. Jackpot indeed! But I liked the super quick glimpse of you checking out the fur on the tree! Amazing still-shot video!!!

  20. OMG!! I bet you freaked when you saw that bear captured by the wildlife camera! Awesome footage! He really is HUGE!


If you are a Blogger registered user, you can skip the step asking you to verify that you are not a spammer. For posts older than 5 days, I have comment moderation turned on.

Thanks for your comments!!!!!