What To Learn From The Dance All Bears Do

By John Salak


Ever wonder why bears rub there backs on trees, posts or even utility poles? Probably not. Ever wonder what’s to learn from this practice? Again, the answer is probably not. Maybe, just maybe we should.

The good scientists at the University of Alberta gave us a hint when they took the trouble over several years to collect almost 1,000 bear hair samples from rub spots, genotype the samples to identify 118 male brown bears and 95 female bears, and then cross check the results against previously collected data from more than 2,000 bears. They came to a startling conclusion.

Yes, as Mark Boyce of the university noted “…all bears do this dance, rubbing their back up against the trees, stomping the feet and leaving behind odors of who they are, what they are, what position they’re in, and possibly whether they are related.”

What Boyce and his animal behaviorist compatriots didn’t expect to find is that male and female bears who rub more often not only have more offspring, but they also have more offspring that survive. Oh, they also have more mates. These Canadian scientists were even able to provide the numbers. For every rub object a male bear hits, the number of their mates multiplied 1.38 times, while the number of offspring is multiplied by 1.37 times.

Female bears benefited at well. Each of their rubs multiplied their mates by 1.42 times and the number of predicted offspring by 1.55 times.

Okay, okay, okay. No one is suggesting that men or women should stripe down can start rubbing themselves on trees to enhance their sex lives or increase the number of children they produce.

But this bear practice does underscore something that should, but probably isn’t, obvious to almost everyone. Bears that are in good condition and vigorous, which means they are more prolific rubbers, wind up having better sex lives and healthier cubs. Slow-moving, overweight and unenergetic bears just don’t do so well.

Kinda sounds like the same situation for people.

Oh yeah, highly active female bears, the ones doing the most rubbing, wind up settling down in highly prized territories. What does that mean? They get to avoid big gnarly males bears that are fine when it comes to mating but often wind up harming their offspring.

Key notes here for a happy family life for people and bears: be healthy, active and selective.


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