Bear Sign

bear tracks near Margerie Glacier
Bear tracks near Margerie Glacier

Bears usually leave ample 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 last supper such as grass, berries, seeds, fish bones, or hair

bear trail
Bear trail

Bear Trails
Bear trails may consist of a single solid trail, or sets of individual footprints that often look sunken or pressed into the ground. These footprints are called a “mark trail,” and are often formed purposefully by a bear urinating while it walks, slowly grinding its feet and the urine into the ground. Mark trails are believed to be a way that a bear announces his or her presence to other bears, which may be especially useful during breeding season.

Mark trails often lead directly to a tree that bears rub and scratch on, called a “rub tree." Rub trees usually have a somewhat mangled appearance and may have bits and clumps of bear hair stuck in their bark
bear sign
Rub trees and mark trails indicate frequent use by bears, and poor camping locations.
bear belly hole
A bear day bed

Day Beds
Another telltale sign of bear use of an area is the presence of day beds. Day beds are dug-out areas that may be used day or night by resting bears. A day bed may be under a big spruce tree on a knoll or on a gravel bank on the beach.

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 sedge meadow or salmon stream. Day beds are sometimes referred to as “belly holes” because bears dig them to accommodate their girth – the bigger the belly, the bigger the hole!

bear tracks
bear tracks

Travel Routes
The coastline of Glacier Bay is an extremely well-traveled wildlife corridor. Bears, like people, tend to walk along the easiest travel routes along the beach, up stream beds and river valleys, and through natural breaks in the brush. Bears tend to walk on trails that may be used by moose and other animals as well. Bears in Glacier Bay seem able to swim as well as they can walk and have been sighted over a mile from land while crossing from one shore to another.


Last updated: April 14, 2015

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Mailing Address:

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve
PO Box 140

Gustavus, AK 99826


907 697-2230

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