Always stay alert and be on the lookout for sign of bears.
In addition to making noise to avoid surprising a bear, keep on the lookout for sign of bears and bear activity. Stop by a ranger station or visitor center to learn all about bears and safety in bear country. Be sure to ask the ranger for information or updates on bear sightings, trail conditions and area closures.
Bears usually leave evidence after passing through an area, including tracks, feces or "scat," grazed plants, trails, rubbed trees, digs, and day beds. Bear scat often contains identifiable remnants of the bear’s latest meal such as grass, berries, seeds, fish bones, or hair.
Below are some signs of bears and bear activity. If you see any of these, check the freshness of the sign, make noise, and be on high alert for bears. If you repeatedly see signs of bears, leave the area, returning the way you entered, hopefully not surprising a bear on your return. If you ever come upon an animal carcass, leave the area immediately, returning the way you entered.
If you see bear tracks, check their freshness, i.e., if any dirt, pine needles, grass, etc. have blown or fallen into the track. If you see adult and cub tracks together, be very careful and consider ending your hike.
Day beds are dug-out areas that may be used day or night by resting bears. Sometimes the bear will line the beds with branches or grass for extra warmth.
Day beds are usually located so the bear has a good view of the surrounding area, and they often are surrounded by several scats that the resting bear left. The presence of many day beds in close proximity can be a sign that a rich food source is nearby, such as a carcass.
Bears mark their territory. Claw and bite marks can be found on many things, including trees, signs, and fence posts.
(from small to BIG)
Bear feces (scat) often contains identifiable remnants of the bear’s latest meal such as grass, berries, seeds, fish bones, or hair. Check for freshness, i.e., are insects present or colonizing the scat? Have the plants underneath it turned yellow, or are they still fresh and green? If there are many piles of scat within a small area, you may have also located a bedding down (daybed) area.
Learn to identify scat of bears that have been eating meat: usually black and runny and sometimes with hair visible. Meat scat smells (sometimes very pungent). Plant scat does not smell. If you come across scat containing meat, a carcass is most likely nearby, which means a bear is nearby protecting it. End your hike immediately, returning the way you hiked in.
While hiking, watch the sky for signs of ravens or crows. If you see many ravens or crows (especially if they are cricling), you may be near a carcass. You may even smell the carcass. Many bears can eat one carcass over the course of a few days, and they stay nearby between feedings. Sometimes grizzlies bury or cover the carcass to hide and store it for later feeding. This is called a cache. Caches are created when the bear scrapes the forest floor, grass, and branches onto the carcass. Sometimes there will be lots of scat and prominate bed(s) nearby.
If you come upon a carcass or cache, end your hike immediately, returning the way you hiked in.
Bears rub on many objects: trees, signs, fence posts, power poles, outbuildings, cabins, and boulders. A typical bear rub tree has few branches, smoothness, and sometimes discoloration (due to dirt and rubbing the surface bark off the tree). There can be bear hair on the rub surface, and/or a lack of vegetation growing around the base of the tree where the bear stands. Some trees have a clear path in the vegetation leading to and away from the tree. (Note the hair sticking to the tree in the photograph in the upper right-hand corner.)
To learn more about bears and bear safety, visit YNP's Bear Safety Page.