Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Bears and Poop


   Poop # 1

"The school could fail," said one of the founding parents of The Kids' Place childcare center, but that was before the Ziplock bag of bear poop showed up in the sharing box early September of our first year—eliciting an uproarious delight of giggles and touching off an argument between the sharer and another knowledgeable child about whether the poop was pooped by a brown bear or a black bear, a detail that warranted a month-long study of bears, culminating with that founding parent saying, "I don't think we need to buy all those brightly-colored plastic toys to attract parents; if you can make curriculum from poop, I think the school will survive."
The bears in my neighborhood—same neighborhood as that of the infamous Ziplock bag of poop—have created some of the most gorgeous scat this summer. The photo above of poop (pressed flat by a tire in the middle of the road) looks like the bear had raided a bowl of Trix cereal. I was confused until I heard a bear has been raiding birdfeeders, even carrying the feeders themselves off into the woods.  

Poop is a taboo topic among American adults. Entire books—illustrated ones at that—display rooms where we poop without ever mentioning the word poop or its euphemistic name “number two.” 

On a recent four-mile walk up the canyon, I passed two piles of bear poop, each unique. (Does even a bear find his poop aesthetically pleasing?)

Poop # 2

Poop # 3

I marveled at how mammals manufacture poop. How in the world our digestive systems can withdraw only what they need and eliminate the rest is a marvel. I thought about how “wild-grown” poop has its uses. Besides offloading extra useless weight for the animal, another benefit is that the poop becomes a part of the food chain for dung beetles and other insects. On closer inspection of last of the bear poop piles shown above, I saw a spider and ants wandering about like they were explorers on an outcropping of rock.  (Can you spot the spider?)

As of today, I have seen more piles of bear poop (three) than bears (one) this summer. I like that the bear poop piles significantly increase my bear “sightings." I think I will continue the tradition of tallying bear poop along with bear sightings. If the bears don’t appreciate their poop’s beauty, I will. And of course, I'll continue admiring the bears—black or brown.

A bear who visited a few years ago, eying me from a neighbor's cherry tree.