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Dancing Bears of the Forest

Bear walking in a forest
Eurasian brown bear in a forest © Charles J Sharp Wikimedia Commons

Bears dance in the forest’s core, where meadows emerge after the snow. They rub against trees, shedding their winter coats, and leave a unique scent marking their presence.

The Dance Begins

As summer approaches, the bears feel the warmth seeping into their thick winter coats. This signals the time to shed and refresh. While adults can gorge on plants and occasionally catch a marmot or two, the real joy lies in the dance against the trees. Mothers show their cubs the ropes. As the cubs watch, they quickly learn the art of the dance, understanding that some trees, with their rough barks and sturdy trunks, are just perfect for a good rub.

Bears dance right up against some trees © BBC Earth YouTube

The perfect tree for a good scratch

Interestingly, bears have their favorite trees, and they would travel miles to visit them. As they rub, they leave behind an individual scent, a signature. Over time, these trees carry a directory of who’s been there, helping bears identify friends and potential foes. This scent-marking ritual is not just about shedding; it’s a communication tool to avoid unnecessary confrontations.

The Purpose Behind the Dance

Beyond the joy of the dance and the shedding, there’s a deeper purpose. Summer is fleeting, and soon, the bears will retreat to their dens for hibernation. Every moment in the sun is crucial. They must feed, store energy, and prepare for the colder months. But before that, they ensure they’ve had their fill of dancing.

Bear walking in a forest
Eurasian brown bear in a forest © Charles J Sharp Wikimedia Commons

A Glimpse from the Rocky Mountains

In a segment from “Planet Earth II,” bears in the Rocky Mountains were captured engaging in this ritual. They twerked against their favorite tree trunks, teaching their young the joys of shedding. This dance, while starkly contrasting to the fierce battles of the wild, showcases the lighter side of these magnificent creatures.

Shedding and Scent Marking: A Dual Purpose

Shedding is a natural process, but it’s an art for bears. They use trees, bushes, and even dense brushes to help remove the shedding fur. This act of rubbing not only aids in shedding but also in marking territories and leaving scent trails. It’s a dance of purpose, marking presence and preparing for the seasons ahead.

Intriguing Observations

  • Bears like Ted wait until late August to shed, leaving fur on aspen bark, dogwood trees, and even raspberry bushes.
  • Scent marking is a year-round activity, not just in the wild but also in enclosures. It plays a vital role in communication among bears.
  • Shedding and scent marking might be intertwined, hinting at a deeper connection between the two.


The forest is full of mysteries and wonders, and the dancing bears are one of its most enchanting sights. As they rub, scratch, and dance, they tell a story of survival, communication, and the sheer joy of living. So, the next time you’re in the woods and come across a tree with signs of bear rubs, know that you’ve stumbled upon a page from the forest’s diary.

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