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Tracking Quizzes

Quiz #13 - Answer

The answer is BLACK BEAR.

The mystery tree as AMERICAN BEECH. For those of you who don’t have beech in your region, it is identified by its characteristic smooth gray bark. In regions where it grows, beech is often the most important food source for black bears. In late summer, bears eat beech nuts by the thousands to fatten up for winter. They are so fond of beech nuts that they will climb trees 80 feet tall, go out as far as they can on the branches, and break / fold the branches inward to form what is known as a "bear nest", looking similar to the nest of a gigantic bird. The bear doesn’t use the nest to lay in, though; it is just a piling area for the food supply.

The tracks are approximately 3-7 years old, judging by the dark-colored scarring as explained in Elbroch’s new "Mammal Tracks & Sign" book.

Many folks guessed the tracks were from porcupine, which is a good guess, as porcupines sometimes climb beech trees to feed on the bark. Elbroch has good photos comparing bear tracks to porcupine tracks on tree bark in his book [p. 613-614], which show finer claw size for porcupine than bear.

Bears are said to most commonly climb trees by hugging the trunk with their arms, and placing their hind feet flat against the centerline of the tree. The hind claws don’t dig into the bark very much. So there is tremendous force placed upon the sides of the tree by the front claws. With such smooth, light-colored bark, that’s why beech trees display such distinct tracks.

This quiz is one example of why knowing your trees helps you to become a better tracker. Because the animals sure know their trees. In the case of bears, I have learned they can distinguish between a beech and an sycamore, between a white birch and a yellow birch, and between a red pine and a white pine, for instance.


Quiz #13 - Question      ...on to Quiz #14

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