This post is per the request of my wonderful sister, who when asked I asked on Facebook to all of my friends, “What should I write in my blog this week?” she simply replied, “Bear Poop.” At first I thought, she’s kidding, she is just trying to make me laugh and that she did. About 10 posts later and a short night’s sleep, I realized she was serious and she may have a point. Bear poop is interesting! It gives us lots of information and it changes frequently—it is a box of chocolates! You never know what you are going to get and some of it is yucky and some of it is interesting.
You may wonder what qualifies me to talk about bear poop, after all to be honest, I don’t even know if I am qualified to talk about it because I have never touched bear poop (reptile poop, yes, but that is a different story). So why can I talk about it? I’ve just spent my summer as a graduate intern working on a black bear communication plan, and I think I may have become an encyclopedia special edition filled with black bear facts.
This isn’t my first go around with scat as a topic, during my undergrad we discussed scat a lot (my B.S. is in Fisheries and Wildlife). Scat is like the magic eight-ball of wildlife management, except more accurate. Spend enough time walking around in the woods and you are bound to step-in-it, everyone poops, even the animals. This is what makes scat such a great tool, everyone does it, it can easily be found (and not stepped in if you are looking for it), and it is a treasure chest of information. In a single pile of poop you can identify the species, guesstimate how long ago that animal was in the area, and what the animal is eating. Take your bounty into a lab and you can detect hormones, analyze DNA, and discover a microbial/bacterial/parasitical forest that may or may not be impacting the health of the animal.
When you have an animal that has large home ranges and travels to the seasonal availability of food like a black bear, poop is a valuable resource. It’s like they leave us presents all over the forest floor as they ramble around fulfilling a need to eat (it becomes more intense as the seasons get closer to fall, this intense feeding is called hyperphagia). Bear poop is so well documented that you can do a google search and come up with numerable hits on how to identify it. Some of it is full of walking stick bugs, some of it is nothing but seeds and some of it isn’t even digested, most of it depends on what food sources are available at the time. Now if we could only train them to go in certain places to make it easier to find?
So there you have it Erin, your blog post on bear poop.