A Moment of Science

How Do Bears Scratch An Itch?

Got an itch? You should take a lesson from bears!

bear in water scratching head

Photo: Tambako the Jaguar (Flickr)

Got an itch?

When a bear’s got an itch, or if it wants to mark its territory, it finds a nice, solid tree with some gnarly bark to rub up against. Sometimes it just scratches its side a bit, but other times it stands right up on its hind legs and really works out all the itchy spots up and down its back.

Finding The Evidence

Scientists are capitalizing on bears’ back scratching habits. They set up remote sensor video cameras near popular rub trees to capture all of the back scratching in action. They also wrap a bit of wire around the trees, in order to snag hair samples for DNA testing. From this data, we are learning all sorts of information.

This ranges from the population estimates and gender distribution of bears in remote areas, to the genetic diversity and movement patterns of bears living close to human development.

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