Tay Meadows Tidbit – Signs of bear

A bear's favourite rock

I’m revisiting some photos I took a while ago with the intention of using in their own posts (so I didn’t include them in Miscellanies), but then for this reason or that didn’t get around to posting them. This one is of a rock I found at the back of our property. It was about a foot (30 cm) across, but only a couple of inches (5 cm) thick. Its geometric shape caught my eye, but what was really of interest were the impressions in the ground beside it. There were two. The first and most noticeable is the brown dirt depression to the right. The rock appears to have sat in this spot for years, enough to kill the vegetation and sink into the soil a bit. The second is below the rock, and is visible as dead, flattened vegetation where the rock sat for a little while this summer, long enough to kill the grass, but late enough in the summer to allow the grass to grow out first; or possibly it was there last summer, and the grass survived the winter under the rock.

These are signs of bear, and about the closest I’ve been to bear around my homes here in eastern Ontario. I have often seen rocks at our research sites that were dislodged or flipped over, the work of a black bear that had roamed through in search of food. The only time Dan and I have spotted individuals of the species, though, was on our way to one of our research sites back in the summer; a couple of small cubs crossed the road near the dump, and all I recall seeing was the butt-end of the second as it disappeared into the brush. This is just fine with me. As much as I like bears, and I like the idea of bears being present in the landscape, I would rather not encounter one in person. They’re generally pretty shy creatures that can detect you long before you’re aware of them, and usually leave the area without you ever knowing they were there.

Bears are omnivores, feeding on just about whatever they’re able to find. One of their foraging strategies is to flip rocks to look for goodies. They’ll eat much of what they find hiding under the rock, with or without a spine. When I flipped this rock up, it had been there long enough for a few things to move in, including a colony of yellow-orange citronella ants, a few earthworms, and a couple of small millipedes. I replaced it where I had found it, so that there would be something there if the bear came looking again. Bears are incredibly strong, capable of flipping rocks with apparent ease that a couple of men working together would have difficulty moving. It wouldn’t have had any trouble at all with this one.

Citronella ants, earthworms and millipedes under rock

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10 responses to “Tay Meadows Tidbit – Signs of bear

  1. I still haven’t seen a wild black bear. There aren’t any close by, but their range has been expanding southward through the state. So I’ll probably see one sooner or later. I’m happy to see them returning to their old range, but I can see a lot of conflicts in such a densely-populated area.

    • Fortunately there doesn’t seem to be too many problems with bears around here. People seem to give them the respect they deserve, but their density is pretty low anyway.

  2. That’s both exciting and just a little bit unnerving.

  3. Good catch! I hope you get to see the bear(s).

  4. I wonder if the bear turned it over on Rock Flipping Day??? :)

  5. What great eyes! If you aren’t a tracker, you certainly have the eyes for one. Most of us would’ve missed this sign. It’s a perfect example of the signs wildlife leave around us but we never see…mostly because a) we don’t know what it is and therefore we ignore it, and b) we are losing our ability, in general, to “see”.

    Thanks for sharing…it’s a great reminder to me to keep my eyes open for even the subtlest of clues.

    • Thanks, Ellen! I try to pay attention more when I’m out, but I’m sure there’s still lots that I miss anyway. It would be amazing to be able to spend a day in the woods with an aboriginal tracker, centuries ago when that was how they made their living.

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