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Monday, August 17, 2015

Action at a Bear-marking Tree

I recently went through every bear visit to a marking tree that my trail camera had recorded. I picked one photo per visit to show you, to give you an idea of how important these marking trees are to bears.

After a 6 month hiatus for hibernation, the first visit to the tree was in late May. I believe this was Milton, a male who has spent mating season here for many years.
To kick off the mating season in style, Milton came back an hour later to mark the tree again.
The next visitor, an even bigger male (named "Tiny"), also marked the tree. The competition for the females was underway!
Tiny was determined to make sure his scent was all over this tree so he returned again a couple of days later.
Milton and Tiny were really in competition at this point. Milton marked the tree again. But, you may have noticed that NO females had yet visited the tree.
Later that same day, a big male bear came past the tree. I'm not absolutely certain but I think this was "Tiny" again.
He passed the tree twice that evening, not bothering to mark it the second time.
Again, three days later, a big male passed the tree and didn't do a full marking. He just rubbed the tree with his side as he walked past it.
Finally, about 8 days later, a smaller bear, perhaps a female who could be a mate for all those males marking the tree showed up.
Then, yet another female arrived after the tree had been vacant for a while!
And she decided to mark it. I believe this is our new female bear ("Dot" for the white dot on her chest), who is filling the empty territory after the loss of our two matriarchs in the past year.
For good measure, Dot marked it again a few days later.
Then a larger female came through. She visited the tree just once.
In the midst of all the female visits, one of the big males checked out the tree. I'm not sure which male this was but he must have been happy to know that there were some females in the neighborhood. It is confusing, however, that mating season theoretically had ended by this point (it's usually in May and June).
The very next day after the male, Dot came back. She sniffed the tree, doubtless learning that another female had been there and that a potential mate had visited.
Ten days later, she checked the tree again.
That was the all the bear visits through the end of July - a total of 15 visits by 5-7 different bears. I suspect that I'll find that more bears have been there the next time I check the camera. However, the marking behavior will probably be tailing off as the bears are focused on getting fat in August!

A bear marking tree is a key communication center. Every now and then, a bear marking tree gets cut down or mowed over, and I always feel sad, knowing the role it's played in the lives of the bears. I hope that this mangled little tree stays standing for a long time!


  1. That tree is like a census taker of bears! Very cool!

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

  2. That is so interesting! It's like dogs with their "pee mail"!

  3. That sure is one popular neck of the woods!

  4. It's amazing how they just keep coming back and marking it...instead of meeting! Bit like modern social media.

  5. Fantastic! Those babies are ginormous. Like be their names
    Lily & Edward

  6. So it isn't just our dogs who check out the local peemail:) Good to see that Tiny and Milton are still around your area. Hope there will be some new little cubs down the road.

  7. So it isn't just our dogs who check out the local peemail:) Good to see that Tiny and Milton are still around your area. Hope there will be some new little cubs down the road.

  8. Amazing that those tiny trees continue to take such repeated action.

  9. We hope there will be lots of bear babies from all the messages left on that tree.

  10. Dot is "on the market!!" Can't wait to see if there are cubs! How long is gestation?

  11. So fascinating!
    Mr Bailey, hazel & Mabel

  12. That was really interesting...I wonder why that tree???

  13. Incredible! Thank your for sharing your part of the world

    Anne and Ziggy

  14. I am wondering why that "particular" tree?? Must be something special! It is kind of like the bears stop to check mail! BOL!

  15. that's impressing and I never saw bears this way... how tall is such an adult bear when it stands on two legs? much bigger than a common male human?

  16. So awesome. Wildlife and all their habits are so fascinating.

  17. Very cool! It's going to be fun to see cubs in the spring with the females (I hope) and wonder which bear fathered them.


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