Does a bear poop in the woods?
Unsurprisingly, yes (unless it’s a polar bear). But what does that poop look like?
It’s a curious question, but if you’re on a hike and encounter some excretions, you’ll wish you knew the answer.
So, whether you’re reading this in preparation for a hike or you’re currently staring at some suspicious scat and frantically Googling for an answer and some reassurances, the following guide will help.
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How Can You Tell If It’s Bear Poop?
Bear scat varies by species. Generally, though, it will be much larger than the poop of other animals, so if you stumble across something that looks like it was dropped by Paul Bunyan the day after Thanksgiving, you’re probably staring at bear scat.
If you’re looking for specifics, check out the following:
How to Identify Black Bear Scat
Black bear scat often has a similar shape to human feces. It’s tubular and tapered, but much larger than what you might be used to.
It is up to 12 inches long and 2 or 3 inches in diameter. If you look closely, you’ll see lots of fibers and hairs, as well as little bones.
Black bear poop can be green or black/brown, depending on the season and the bear’s diet. Some black bear scat is much more globular in nature, as it ultimately depends on what the animal has eaten.
Black bears usually defecate at the base of trees, but you can also find black bear poop along trails.
How to Identify Grizzly Bear Scat
Grizzly bear scat is similar to black bear scat, but it tends to be a little larger and fuller. It can also range in color and content.
Black Bears or Grizzly Bears?
Not sure whether you’re looking at black bear or brown bear scat? If the poop piles aren’t giving the game away, your location might.
Brown bears are found throughout Alaska, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, and Washington. Grizzly bears are located inland while coastal brown bears live nearer to coastal areas.
As for the black bear, it is found in 40 states. If you’re not in brown bear territory and encounter bear scat, it’s probably a black bear.
What Does Bear Poop Look Like in the Spring and Summer?
Bears eat more grass and insects in the spring and early summer, and so their poop will be lighter and you’ll notice more grass fibers and insect parts.
What Does Bear Poop Look Like in the Fall?
In the late summer, bears start consuming more fruits. Their poop will lose a lot of its shape and you’ll notice more fruit pieces.
Why is Bear Poop Black?
As noted above, the color of bear scat can vary greatly depending on what the animal eats.
Bear scat is often black if the animal has eaten a lot of vegetation and the poop has been baking in the sun for many hours.
What Does Bear Poop Smell Like?
A berry scat will smell sweet and sickly; a scat that’s full of meat will smell foul. There is no single scent, and it all depends on what the bear eats.
How Does Bear Poop Differ From Other Animals?
If you’re still not sure whether you’re looking at bear, coyote, bobcat, or even human feces (bears aren’t the only ones who poop in the woods), then the following descriptions might help:
Coyote poop looks somewhat similar to bear scat. It’s tubular and you may notice lots of hairs, fibers, and other parts that could indicate bear scat. However, coyote scat is much smaller, typically spanning no more than 5 inches in length and less than an inch in diameter.
There also tends to be more fur and hair inside coyote poop and it’s usually left in the middle of trails where it serves as a territorial marker.
Cougar poop is about 5 inches long and 1 inch in diameter, but it can be longer and thicker. It’s often dark and contains a lot of bones and fur.
Fresh dog poop has a very strong scent, as any dog owner will tell you. The color varies, but it’s usually tubular, tapered, and dark brown.
Cow scat can look very similar to bear poop as it’s globular and loose, with a similar size. The difference is that when bears drop globular scat, it’s usually full of berries and other fruits, whereas cows mainly eat grass.
So, if you’re not sure whether it’s cow or bear droppings, you’ll need to take a closer look.
Although bobcat scat can have a similar shape to most bear scat, it’s often much denser and shorter.
Racoon scat is often very small, just a couple of inches long. It’s distinctly smaller than bear droppings and it can also contain roundworm, so keep your distance!
What Are The Other Signs of Bears Nearby?
If there are tracks on the ground or claw marks on trees, it could indicate that a bear was (and potentially still is) nearby. Be sure to keep your eyes open for bear dens and be aware of when bears hibernate.
Check the ground and nearby trees and plants. If the ground is soft and muddy or dry and dusty, there should be some telltale tracks.
Summary: How to Identify Bear Scat
Whenever you’re on the trail you should always be on the lookout for bears, as well as mountain lions and other dangerous animals. Check the ground for scat, scan the trees for claw marks, and watch for movement at all times.