Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the October 3, 2004 Newsletter issued from the Sierra Nevada foothills somewhat east of Placerville, California, USA

Saturday morning I hiked down to the old goldmine in the canyon and was surprised to find a good bit of bear poop -- Black Bear, URSUS AMERICANUS. Some of the hard, crumbly turds, the same diameter they came out of the bear, measured a full two inches across (5 cm) and they consisted of almost nothing but the remains of Manzanita fruits. There just isn't another species in the area that can produce such large, fruity poop!

This poop was orangish red, since that's the color of Manzanita fruits. In Spanish the word "manzanita" means "little apple," and that's what the pea-sized fruits look like, though inside they are very dry and seedy. Here Manzanita bushes are super-abundant. They belong to the Heath, or Azalea, Family, and currently bear a very heavy fruit crop. You can see a Manzanita bush at www.tropic.ca/A%20-%20B/Arctostaphylos%20Manzanita.htm

Many Manzanita fruits had passed through the bear's gut whole. Fruit stems were also visible, so I could just picture bears on our recent full-moon nights pawing clusters of Manzanita fruits into their maws and chomping down on leaves, stems and fruits, making a few half-hearted and sloppy chews, swallowing, and then moving on.

There's an interesting Web page about Black Bears in California at www.bear-tracker.com/bear.html with several pictures and personal anecdotes. A locally based website treating Black Bears as a problem is at www.co.el-dorado.ca.us/ag/wildlife/bears.html That site says that Black Bears are "generally protected," which appears to mean that you can't shoot them unless you feel threatened.