U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version

July 2003


Published by the Western Forester : July/August 2003.


As they emerge from their winter den, bears need an energy source and food is relatively scarce. Concurrently, trees are breaking dormancy and starting to generate carbohydrates. Consequently, bears commonly girdle Douglas-fir trees during the spring to feed on the available carbohydrates. Bears strip bark from a tree with their claws, then feed on the sapwood by scraping it from the heartwood with their teeth. Scattered remnants of bark strewn at the base of a tree and vertical tooth marks are characteristic indicators of bear activity. Most frequently bears forage on the lower bole of trees, girdling the bottom three to five feet. However, some bears may climb and feed on the upper boles while sitting on lateral branches. Occasionally, a bear will strip an entire tree.