Bears are often viewed as an iconic symbol of wildness. Though there a people who can say they have actually seen a bear in the wild, there are people who cannot say they have. Bears located in National Parks attract a lot of attention. Bear sightings cause traffic jams, and in some cases, cause people to get into accidents because of senseless and reckless behavior to see wildlife. Bears also attract the attention of wildlife researchers who have careers studying this iconic animal.

Bears have been observed rubbing their backs against trees. It looks like they are scratching to get that unbearable itch, but they often rub their backs on trees to communicate with one another. Rubbing their backs on trees leaves their scent so other bears can know they’re in their area. Scientists suggest that they also rub trees to get a good scratch or to cover them with sap, which is used as a bug repellent. When rubbing against these trees, they often leave a significant amount of hair on the bark. Researchers find and collect these hairs because they contain a variety of information such as: species, gender, individual identity, as well genetic relatedness/diversity within and between populations. This information can then be used to study distribution, abundance, movement patterns as well as evolutionary history.

Finding the trees that bears rub against can be a bit difficult due to the plethora of trees in their habitat, so bear biologists create hair snares. They tie barbed wire around four trees to make an area of about 5×5 meters. The wire is about 2- 2 1/2 ft off the ground so the bear can get to the middle of the square which is baited with something to attract the bears. I helped the researchers re-bait these hair snares using a fish blood concoction. The scent draws the bears in, but they have to get past the wire, so they often get hair snagged while passing through to the middle to investigate the scent.

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