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Black Bear Bites: Touch Something Wild

November 8, 2019  |  by Susie Spikol  |  3 comments

Imagine being able to touch where a black bear left its claw marks on a tree. Or maybe the bruin even stood on its hind legs and bit the tree.   And what if you could find bear fur stuck in the splintered wood of the tree?

Well, you can.  Look no further than the utility poles in your neighborhood.

If you live in a place where black bears live, autumn is a perfect time to wander along your road and see if any black bears have left their marks on your community’s telephone poles. The poles are easily visible and accessible when the surrounding plants have lost their leaves.

Black bears communicate to other bears in their area by leaving their scent through bites and scratches on trees and utility poles.  The poles seem to be a favorite surface to mark.  Perhaps it is the soft pine or the creosote saturated wood that these bears find irresistible.

Bears mark their territory in the spring, shortly after emerging from their winter dens.  It is their way of communicating with each other.  They mark the pole by turning their head to the side and biting into it with their upper and lower canine teeth. These bites can be deep enough to splinter the wood. They have scent glands in both their paws and mouth and they often turn and leave more of their scent by rubbing against the poll and/or  clawing the pole.

This wild sign is surprisingly common if you just know what to look for.  Look at the polls on your road for horizontal grooves, often with splintered wood.  Look closely to see if you can find any fur left behind by the bear.

And when reach up to touch the mark, or feel the strand of fur, just think—you are touching a bit of something wild.

  1. Carol Kraus says:

    Just found the same bear markings on the posts of our cabin in North Georgia and wondered why there would be horizontal marks but that would be the teeth marks. Thank you for this great information .

  2. Carol Kraus says:

    The bear was back again (2022) last night as we said on the porch. Heard
    snapping and ripping and thought it was after our tree until I saw the power pole this morning! I had turned on the porch light but it did not deter it. My view was obstructed by another tree so I didn’t get to see the action.

  3. Susie says:

    Carol, what an experience. You might consider putting up a trailcam. I’m curious about what the bear is interested in at your cabin?

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