Bear Calling Cards

That title seems terribly old fashioned. And maybe a bit fancy for bears.

For visitors who have hiked the Popash Slough or Bird Rookery Swamp, you’ve likely seen what we call Bear Trees.

These are trees where bears have rubbed the bark smooth and you can see the oil from their fur rubbed into the tree and sometimes, on special occasions, find some of their fur.

We spend a lot of time explaining how bears do this and why to somewhat disbelieving audiences. Let’s face it – when I’ve got my back to a tree and have my arms up over my head pretending my claws are grabbing onto the trunk as I shimmy my back up and down, I don’t seem like a very credible source.

Bears do this back-scratching-thingee not because they have an itch, but because they are leaving their scent.

Like bear emails. Or text messages. That seems a bit more up-to-date than calling cards.

We finally, FINALLY, thanks to Volunteer Tom Mortenson and his game cameras, have a photo of a bear doing exactly what I’ve demonstrated hundreds of times – scratching his or her back on a tree and leaving scent. They’ve just done it at night instead of in front of a crowd of visitors.


For actual scientific important information about bears and bear safety, visit

For something completely unscientific, enjoy this video of not-Florida-bears scracthing on trees along to “Jungle Boogie.”

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