If you’re ever out hiking on the trail and come across a pile of tube-shaped poo (or step in the stuff), you’re probably looking at bear scat. If the pile of slightly fermented bear-stomach contents is still steaming, you may want to rethink your current trajectory and hope you brought your bear spray.
Bear poop (or scat) looks similar to our own, at least how ours would look with a healthy digestive system and away from a toilet bowl. The biggest difference between their tubular-shaped poo and our own is coloration and material, depending on what the bear is eating.
Both Grizzlies and Black bears are omnivores, meaning they will eat meat or vegetation. These recent meals determine the consistency of the scat, though it typically remains tube-like in shape and about as large as your hand with fingers fully expanded.
What Does Bear Poop Look Like
Fibrous is the best word to describe bear scat that comes from a bear feeding on a lot of vegetation. If they recently ate a lot of meat, whether it was a deer or Bob and his wife, it will lack the fibrous consistency and smell pungent, like a dog’s.
Often, bears consume a lot of berries while gobbling up the local vegetation, and those berries fail to digest. If you find bear scat after it ate from a berry bush, you’ll find a lot of undigested berries, almost as if the bear garnished its poo with something colorful.
Bears don’t digest seeds very well either. If you can imagine chunks of blackened burger patties infused with poppy seeds, you’re on the right track. Bears are a lot like us. Their poop is dictated by what they eat, though the tubular shape will generally remain the same.
Typical bear scat is large, like cow droppings, and about the size of your hand with your fingers and thumb fully extended. An average-sized hand, of course, since some have longer fingers than others.
Bear scat is typically tube-like in shape and length, with the length depending on the age of the bear and its size. Since it’s heavy and a bear drops it from a few feet up, it compacts and smooshes when it hits the ground, giving it a little more spread. It also tends to pile up, with the tube-shaped fecal matter settling into each other.
This largely depends on what the bear just ate. When they eat meat, it tends to be much darker, sometimes black. Fruits and veggies may alter the scat’s coloration to a large degree, including any shade of brown or green.
If there are a lot of berries in the bear’s diet, some of the juice may bleed over into the scat, even though the berries failed to digest.
How to Identify Grizzly vs Black Bear Scat
Grizzly bear and black bear scat are nearly identical. The only thing that separates the two is the size. Grizzlies typically poop bigger than black bears because grizzlies are bigger than black bears.
The rest is identical because both bears have the same digestive system and digestion process. Both bears eat the same types of food, including insects, bees, deer, honey, and various vegetation they come across and instinctively know to be safe.
If it’s a young grizzly, not fully grown, you probably wouldn’t be able to look at it and tell that it came from a grizzly and not a black bear. It may help some to know where you are. There are hardly any grizzlies in the continental United States.
Some of their territories stretch down into Montana, the very eastern tip of Idaho, and the northwest corner of Wyoming. The very northwest part of Washinton and all of Alaska are Grizzly territories. So, if you find bear scat in the woods, in most places, it’s black bear scat.
Other signs bears are in the area
If you come across a lot of bear scat, look around for a grassy area that looks matted down. If you see a spot that looks like all of the grass, brush, small bushes, and twigs have been compressed into the earth, congratulations, you just found the bear’s sleeping spot.
Now leave quicker than you came. Unless, of course, you are hunting bear, in which case you’re on the right track. Bear tracks are obvious signs, with the back foot leaving a long track tipped with claw marks and the front foot leaving a much smaller track with distinct claw marks.
Bears mark their spots by rubbing and clawing at trees. You’ll see trees that are obviously missing their bark and potentially claw marks in the wood as well. They also use trails, especially down to water sources, so look for tracks along the trails as well.
Bear scat is very similar to human scat—tubular in shape, long, and much larger than anything we can pass other than the morning after Taco Bell. The colorations are distinct and directly associated with what they’ve recently eaten.
Black or very dark scat is a sign the bear recently had a rabbit or deer for supper, while lighter colors that are fibrous in consistency indicate a diet of veggies, berries, and perhaps some insects as well.
One thing is for certain—unless you are hunting for bears, scat is a sure sign that at least one is in the area. Unless you favor the idea of running into it, turn around and head the other way. Most bears will leave you alone, but it’s better not to test their mood.
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