Little over a year ago, I enrolled in a course titled Black Bear Management. Taught by 2 wonderful people, John Van Niel and Sasha Mackenzie, I began to learn about my favorite wild animal. For years growing up, the black bear was the prize sighting on nature drives while on family vacations in the Adirondacks. I began to become obsessed with the thought of being able to see one live, in person. When I enrolled in BBM, I was so excited. The course is offered over 2 semesters. The first 1 credit course is held over the first half of the semester. We cover natural history, ecology, and population management of the black bear in NY. The second semester is 2 credits, and we focused on a mini research topic, and also got to work with the NY Department of Environmental Conservation biologists in our region. They allowed our class to tag along to do den visits in the winter, and obtain from slumbering bears and cubs.John and Sasha also had learned about this fascinating behavior that bears do. Due to tempermental bears, I never got the opportunity to handle bears during this outing. "Our" bears for that day were wise to our methods, and bolted before they could be chemically immobilized. Below is a picture of John and classmates at a successful den visit. I am extremely jealous of this adorable experience!
Anyway, I could go on and on about these experiences, but that's not the topic of this entry.
In the first semester course, BBM I, we were introduced to this particular behavior that the bears exhibit. Bears although often found to be solitary, are highly social animals. They mark and leave many different types of sign frequently behind. In my region of the world, I don't know of another animals who 'spends' so much energy doing this, besides maybe a white-tailed deer. The behavior is creating a "trail" or "ground marking". It is a set of repetitive, depressed footfalls often found in close proximity to markings on trees (bites, scratches).