Skip to main content

Answer to oft-asked bear question revealed

I seldom write about scat. There's a reason for that. In general, scat is not very showy, and frankly it isn't that interesting. I know of people who love the stuff, and gush enthusiastically over every piece found, trying to pin a name on the beast that expelled it. While I don't mind trying to identify the stuff - just another outdoor skill that reveals something of one's surroundings - in general I quickly pass scat by.

However, exceptions must be made, and this is one of those cases.

The boardwalk at Cranberry Glades Botanical Area in the Monongahela National Forest of West Virginia. Large mammals are often found here, sometimes flat-footing it right down this very boardwalk. And, yeah boy, these jumbos of the forest produce some awe-inspiring scat!

We were up in these highlands last Wednesday, on a foray as part of the New River Birding & Nature Festival. Strolling down the road past Cranberry Glades, we were seeking such feathered lovelies as Canada and Blackburnian warblers, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Veery. Looking far down the road, I spotted this large pile in the gravelly lane. Briefly considering - and quickly rejecting - the temptation to center the mound of stuff in one of our spotting scopes, we instead rushed rapidly to the scene.

Black bear scat! Oh, what a thrill this was for our participants! And fresh, too! The trained observers among us dated the heaping pile at perhaps a day old.

Now, this is where we enter the psyche of our leaders, and a strange world it is within these brains. I suppose most people would pause briefly, marginally wowed by the sheer volume of the stuff, and hustle onwards. Not us. People dropped to the roadway, the better to get eye level photos, and in a shocking violation of Miss Manners' golden rules, guide Rudy Gelis started poking through the stuff with a stick.

Well, we were glad Rudy had the temerity to dissect this stuff, as we learned a lot about this particular bear's diet. It turned out that we had a vegetarian bear roaming these woods. At least, it's eating plants for now. Black bears are consummate omnivores - they'll eat just about anything that's available, meat or plant. Some thought that much of the green matter in this scat was skunk-cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus, which certainly abounds in the adjacent bog. That was a fascinating tidbit to me, as I can hardly imagine anything consciously selecting that foul-smelling stuff for salad greens. But then, I'm not a bear.

Sally kindly offered her name tag as a size scale. Upon reflection, we weren't sure that was a great idea. I think it was her husband who pointed out that people who see this photo might think she was boasting...

But rest assured, the leafy pile is the product of a bear, and to answer the oft-asked question, it was indeed in the woods.


Darrin O'Brien said…
The last photo with the nametag is classic.
Weedpicker said…
Glad to know Sally loaned the name tag- for a scary moment I thought it was found in the bear scat, along with bells and pepper spray.
Jim McCormac said…
Ha! Good one, Cheryl!
Kim said…
Funny stuff. Sally is a brave woman!

Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Snowy owl photography tactics - and things NOT to do

A gorgeous juvenile female snowy owl briefly catches your narrator with its piercing gaze. It's doing its Linda Blair/Exorcist trick - twisting its head 180 degrees to look straight behind. Owls have 14 neck vertebrae - double our number - which allows them such flexibility.

These visitors from the high arctic have irrupted big time into Ohio and adjacent regions, with new birds coming to light nearly every day. Probably 80 or so have thus far been reported in the state, and some of them have stuck around favored spots and become local celebrities.

I went to visit one of these birds this morning - the animal above, which was found last Friday by Doug Overacker and Julie Karlson at C.J. Brown Reservoir near Springfield. In the four days since its discovery, many people have visited as is nearly always the case when one of these white wonders appears near a large population center or is otherwise very accessible.

And as is always the case, people want to photograph the owls. And th…