Whether hunting, camping or hiking, learning how to spot bear poop, especially in areas known for bears, can mean the difference between an enjoyable adventure and a dangerous nightmare. If you can recognize bear scat from black or grizzly bears, you can avoid areas that might lead to a potential run-in with a bear. Most experts recommend focusing on simply identifying bear signs rather than trying to determine exactly which species left it. Any bear, no matter the size or species, could spell danger for the inexperienced outdoorsman.
Follow these steps and tips to spot and identify bear scat and other bear signs. Bears prefer heavily wooden and vegetative areas, especially wild berry batches. They normally travel the same path between their den and their favorite stream or watering hole. Keep this in mind as you hike or look for campsites, as these areas are the most common for hikers, campers and hunters to spot bear poop. If you do spot bear poop, avoid the area around such signs and trails to stay safe.
- Look for heavily trampled paths. Signs of bear trails include broken twigs and wide double-rutted paths through vegetation, under downed trees or other cover. These can usually be found near a water source, such as a lake or large stream.
- Look for bear tracks. Bear tracks look remarkably like a bare human footprint, but shorter and with claw marks in front of each toe. Bear generally follow the same paths and animal trails to find food. Finding paths and tracks provides the greatest possibility to spot bear poop since bears will leave scat along their trails, especially near where they eat.
- To spot bear poop, look for large, tubular-shaped scat. Size should range between 1-1/2 inches and 2-1/4 inches in diameter. Black bears leave scat on the smaller range of the scale, while grizzlies leave scat in the larger range. If you spot bear poop in various sizes around a single area, this could indicate a mother with her cubs.
- Bears are primarily vegetarian. Scat will show mostly grass, berries and other vegetative debris. However, bears are known to eat nearly anything they find. Both experienced and novice outdoorsmen have been able to spot bear poop containing garbage such as cans, food boxes and plastic storage containers.
- Use a long stick or other instrument to break apart suspected bear scat. You should find vegetable matter, but also the remains of squirrels, mice and insects. The remnants in the scat will indicate what they have eaten and what areas you should avoid.
- White, chalky bear scat is common after hibernation. Since the bear has not eaten since late autumn, there is little vegetable or other matter in their feces. If you spot bear poop in early spring that has a white chalk-like consistency, you could potentially be very near their den.