Why Do Bears Rub Trees?

The BBC has an interesting article addressing that question. According to the article, it is primarily male bears who engage in tree rubbing behavior. New research suggests it is an indirect form of male-male competition:

Owen Nevin, a behavioural ecologist at Cumbria University, UK, who carried out the study, said: “A handful of trees (‘rub trees’) are used for years by different grizzlies who each approach the trees in exactly the same way.
“They will step into the footprints of other bears that have approached the trees, urinating as they approach.
“Then they rub their back on the tree, turn around and then bite the tree and claw it. Then they give it a ‘bear hug’ by rubbing their chest against it, and then they rub it with their back again.”


The cameras revealed that large adult male bears were marking and carefully inspecting the rub trees, but female bears were ignoring the trees. The satellite telemetry showed that the grizzlies were moving around the area in large loops, marking trees along the way, while looking for females.
Dr Owen said he thought the male bears were using the trees to communicate with other males in the area and that this could be a way of reducing fighting amongst them.

Interesting stuff…


2 Responses

  1. like dogs?

  2. So the question begs to be answered: “What do bears do when they have an itch?”
    Go Dennis!
    Choose Peace!

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