Bear Tracks! …Or Not
I phoned my boss the other morning to let him know I was running late coming in, and he was all excited to tell me that one of the staff at our center had found some bear tracks on our property. I got really excited also – to have the opportunity to do some bear tracking on our site would be terrific, even if it was just a transient individual moving through.
When I got to the center we went out to see the tracks and this is what I found:
The ensuing conversation went something like this:
“Umm… yeah, that’s not a bear. They’re big tracks! But not bear.”
My boss was really disappointed.
“Are you sure?”
“Yep. They’re canine,” I told him, “but not coyote.”
These tracks were over 4″ across and very deep in the mud.
“You know what I think they are?” I said.
He looked at me blankly for a minute.
“You know those really big white dogs one of our neighbors has across the street?” I asked.
“They’re Great Pyrenees. Really big dogs – like Newfoundlands, only white”.
“Oh. I was hoping they were bear.”
In defense of my boss, a different staff member (who’s fairly outdoorsy, but apparently not a tracker) told him they were bear tracks. Distressingly, this was confirmed by another staff member who’s a hunter. My hunting colleague is someone who I respect, and I know he’s a darn good hunter. But apparently he needs a refresher on bear tracks.
I explained that bear tracks usually show their five toes and a differently shaped heel pad. The hind track in particular has a very long pad:
When we got back up to the office, I broke out my (rather battered) copy of Tracking and the Art of Seeing and showed my boss – who’s nickname is ‘The Bear’, ironically – how bear tracks differ from canine. Even big, domestic canines.
Oh well. Maybe I’ll find some bear tracks up at our family’s cabin in the Catskills next time we venture out there for a visit.