A sure sign of a bear in the neighborhood

I was out for a walk this morning along my favorite loop through the fields and into the swamp behind my house when I came across an interesting sight.

The trunk of a decaying pine tree had been shredded of its bark all along one side, up to a height of about 7 feet. The top of the tree had broken off in one of our recent wind/ice storms, but this shredding was fresh, and had nothing to do with the weather.

It could only mean one thing. We have a bear in the neighborhood.

Not that this should come as any great surprise. There have been plenty of sightings in the area, thanks to a population boom among black bears here. Just not so close.

The new snow covered up any other signs, but the shredding was evidence enough.

Black bears will tear up a decaying tree for two reasons. First, they’re looking to feed on any bugs that are living under the bark. Second, they may be marking their territory. It could mean he’s not just passing through. On the other hand, it’s unlikely that he’s hiding somewhere ready to jump out and scare me.

Black bears can have a home range of 20 to 175 square miles, and they usually have a number of regular routes they follow as they forage for food. He could be anywhere by this time.

As I continued on my walk, I looked for tracks and other signs, but there weren’t any, so he may have moved on along his way. With these cold temperatures, he may have denned up somewhere to wait until it warms up again. If that happens, maybe I’ll get a chance to track him.