Journey to Bear Orchard

I want to take you on a journey to a place I know - a hidden orchard only the bears know about. I call this place Bear Orchard, although you won't find that name on any map. I stumbled upon it quite by accident one year. It is only accessible during summer and only from one trail. The rest of the year, rising creek water cuts off all access to this place. I call it Bear Orchard because, well, you'll see why.  The clues I have found in this orchard tell me a lot about black bears and their lives. What they eat, where they spend time, etc. Follow the pictorial tour to see what I learned about the bears by tracking them through this special place.

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A well-worn trail leads through the forest to the secret location known only to bears.

Regular trail through the forest.


As we approach the orchard, we begin to find clues that identify the inhabitants. Follow the trail worn in the grass to see what is hidden from the eyes of most humans.
The closer we get, the more trails there are. They branch off everywhere, leading to many different trees. Clues are everywhere.

Many trails.

Imprints in grass.

These imprints in the grass tell us where a bear walked. If it keeps using this trail, eventually the animal will wear a path into the grass.
This little "stairway" was worn into the hillside by a bear who repeatedly used this same trail over many years. The "steps" are well-worn and indicate where the bear placed his feet each time he passed. Bears will frequently use the same trails and you may find depressions in the ground where the bears have stepped in the same places for years.


Broken branches.

The broken branches of this apple tree have a story to tell. When the trees are laden with fruit, the bears are attracted to the orchard to feast. The animals often are too heavy and the branches break when they climb them.
This tree has been supplying bears with treats for many years. The scat nearby identifies the visitor as a black bear.

Apple tree branches.


This 3-inch-long hind track belongs to a young bear cub. When cubs are born, their eyes are closed and they weigh only about 1/2 pound. They grow quickly on their mother's rich milk. This cub may stay with its mother through next winter.
Here a bear dug up a hive of yellow-jackets. The bear didn't seem to be bothered by their sting. The entire nest was eaten, including the wasps inside. A few pieces of the nest are all that remain to tell the tale of a bear's raid on this rich food source.

Hive dug up by bear.

Partially eaten apple.

Half-eaten apples are everywhere. With so much food around, bears can afford to be choosy.
Bears must gain a lot of weight at the end of summer. They are preparing for the hard winter ahead. A bear may spend six months in its den. In our temperate climate on California's north coast, the bears do not hibernate for winter. They may be active any time, but usually do den up for part of winter.

Partially eaten apple.


Fresh claw marks in the bark of this apple tree give a clue as to who climbed the tree. The small fifth toe didn't leave a scratch mark here.
This tree bears the scars of many past visits from hungry bears. The fresh scars will heal over and grow wider as the tree grows. The rows of round holes are made by sapsuckers looking for insects.

Old claw marks.

So what do bears eat throughout the year? Those apples are not ripe until the end of summer. Take this tour of various bear scats and find out what the bears are eating at different times of the year.

The Bear Scat Gallery


Early in the season, bears may rely more on food sources such as carrion and animals they hunt. Being large animals, they are not as well adapted to a predatory lifestyle as are animals such as cougars and coyotes. A bear can run fast over a short distance, but is not as adept at chasing down prey as other predators are. Most of a black bear's diet  (about 95 percent) consists of vegetable matter. This scat contains hair from an animal or carcass consumed by the bear.
Bears eat a lot of grass. It is a food source available most of the year.

Grassy scat.

                  scat. Certain berries begin to ripen early in the summer. Bear scats are a good indicator of what is currently ripening.
Some old orchards have plum trees. These ripen before the apples do and are gone before the end of summer.



Berries are plentiful in summer. The most common type is blackberry, but there are others, including huckleberry, that are enjoyed by bears.
The fondness of bears for honey is legendary. Bears will dig up whole nests of bees, wasps, or yellow-jackets to eat the insects and whatever honey is found in the nest.


                    up of bees in scat.

A closer look at the scat above reveals the exoskeletons of the yellow-jackets the bear ate.
Bears habitually use the same trails and it is not unusual to find scats of two different ages and composed of two different materials deposited on top of one another. Two

Fresh apple scat.

As the apples begin to ripen, the bears are attracted to the old orchards.
Many apple trees will have apples on them well into the fall and sometimes as late as December or January. This is an important food source where it is available. Old
                  apple scat.
Older apple scat. Toward the end of the season, the loosely held together bear scats will fall apart. Those made of apple peels dry out and spread around.
I certainly hope you have enjoyed this tour through Bear Orchard. Although that is not the real name, it is a real place. There are many places like this out there. Keep your eyes out and look everywhere for the tracks and signs of the wildlife who live wherever you are. They are there and you can read the stories on the landscape. Good luck and happy tracking!    - Beartracker (AKA Kim A. Cabrera)


Find bear posters, greeting cards, postage stamps and more in my new store.

Visit my online store at:   Happy tracking!!

What else can you find in the nature store? Beartracker's T-shirts, sweatshirts, journals, book bags, toddler and infant apparel, mouse pads, posters, postcards, coffee mugs, travel mugs, clocks, Frisbees, bumper stickers, hats, stickers, and many more items. All with tracks or paw  prints, or nature scenes. Custom products are available. If you don't see the track you want on the product you want, email me and I can probably create it. Proceeds from all sales go to pay the monthly fees for this web site. You can help support this site as well as get great tracking products! Thank you!


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Also visit these fine stores for more products of interest:

NDN Pride shop - For Indian Pride items for all tribes. Custom items available on request.

ASL Signs of Love - For anyone who uses or is learning ASL, American Sign Language. Custom name items and more are available here.

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Copyright 1997, 2018. Text and photos by Kim A. Cabrera


Page created November 22, 1999.

Updated: March 25, 2018.