The coming of the spring season brings the big bears out of their dens. Hunters looking to add more meat to the freezer know this, and they know that matching wits with a spring bear is no easy task. A huge part of getting on bears is knowing what to look for when it comes to sign. Your average spring black bear has a living range of 10 square miles. While female black bears will not typically share ranges with other bears, the living ranges of several male bears may overlap, and this is exactly what the keen hunter should be looking for. To identify where the ranges of more than one bear overlap, one must look for an abundance of sign. These signs can be subtle, and if overlooked can cost you a season. Sure, fresh tracks and scat are obvious indicators that a bear is present in the area, but there is more to look for. Here are two key indicators that you need to keep an eye out for when you are on the hunt for old Yogi and his friends.
Out west where timber barons own the larger portion of bear country, you can count on the resident biologist telling you that tree damage is a problem. This is why. Black bears like tree sap. They also enjoy the layer that exists between the bark and the inner “meat” of certain sap-bearing trees. Maple and birch trees are favorites for big bruins, and these bears certainly leave their mark. Although claw marks on trees that do no bear sap are often thought to be territorial markings, if you find fresh claw marks on a sap-bearing tree it is because hungry bears are in the area. Bears have an excellent memory when it comes to food sources, particularly renewable food sources. The other thing that a stripped, sap-bearing tree can reveal to the bear hunter is how tall the bear is. Take a look at how high up the claw marks are, this helps estimate the height of the bear that left them.
While the sometimes extreme weather conditions of bear country can make a lot of stumps look all the worse for wear, there is no disputing the visual aftermath of what a hungry bear will do to a stump that houses a hidden bug colony. This is a great sign for someone looking to seal the deal on a spring bruin. Black bears are notoriously omnivorous, but bugs are a favorite food source for these creatures. Look for stumps that have been torn away all the way to the porous-looking remains of what was once a bug colony.