Calling all woodsy types: Help solve a bear mystery

A professor at Finger Lakes Community College is trying to figure out why the bears he's studying are blazing trails through the woods -- and he's looking for help from sharp-eyed New York State residents. From the Hornell Evening Tribune:

[John] VanNiel and his students are currently investigating a mysterious aspect of bruin behavior – bears that appear to deliberately retread their tracks along a predetermined trail, leaving deep impressions in the earth. A high density of scratched and bitten trees often accompanies these routes.

The phenomenon has been documented in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. VanNiel and company are asking the general public for help finding similar occurrences in New York state.

“I think some people are reluctant to ask the public (for help) because there’s always the chance for misidentification or who knows what, but I have confidence in people,” VanNiel said. “I’ve met enough savvy outdoorsmen that maybe don’t have the college degree but still have a lot of woodcraft knowledge and could really be a lot of help in this.”

Seen anything like this in your woodsy travels lately? Want to help VanNiel out?

Citizens are encouraged to send clear, close-up photos of the markings or trails along with their name, home address, telephone numbers, e-mail address and a detailed description of where the photo was taken to VanNiel at

Image: Medieval French painting of bears, courtesy of