Identifying Bear Scat: What Bear Poop Looks Like

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Does a bear poop in the woods? Unsurprisingly, the answer is yes. But what does the brown or black bear poop look like?

Generally, black bear and brown bear scat resembles human feces and can look like twisted rope, segmented poops, or large plops and piles.

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.

How Can You Tell If It’s Bear Poop?

Bear scat varies by species, diet, and type of bear.

Generally, bear scat will be larger than other animals, including humans. So, if you stumble across something that looks like it was dropped by Paul Bunyan the day after Thanksgiving, you’re probably staring at black or brown bear scat.

This is a picture of a pile of bear scat.

What Bears Eat

If you know what bears eat you will more easily identify bear scat.

Bears mostly eat plants including fruit, vegetables, other plant parts, nuts, and honey.

However, bears are omnivores which means they eat a mixed diet of fruits, vegetables, grass, grains, fish, insects, birds, and mammals. You may spot remnants of animal carcasses or pieces of apples or other fruits in bear scat.

Bear scat with berries

This is a picture of bear scat with berries.

If you’re looking for specifics, check out the following:

How to Identify Black Bear Scat

This is a picture of segmented bear scat.

Black bear scat often has a similar shape to and can look like human feces. It’s tubular, tapered and segmented 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. Grizzlies 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.

Summer is also berry season in many places so be on the lookout for undigested pieces of various berries like blueberries and blackberries. You may also smell a slightly fermented version of whatever the bear ate.

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 like apple pieces and apple peels.

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 is the animal has eaten a lot of vegetarian 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 Is Bear Poop Different 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 or Bear Poop

2 pictures of coyote scat: one with fur on the left-hand side and berries on the right-hand side.

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’s left as a territorial marker.

Cougar Poop or Bear Poop

Cougar and mountain lion 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 fut.

Dog Poop or Bear Poop

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 Poop or Bear Poop

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 dropping, you’ll need to take a closer look.

Bobcat Poop or Bear Poop

Although bobcat scat can have a similar shape to most bear scat, it’s often much denser and shorter.

Racoon Poop or Bear Poop

Raccoon 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.

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. You may be around a bear den and/or a hibernating bear.

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.