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FLCC asks citizens for help with bear research

Instructors and students at Finger Lakes Community College in Canandaigua have embarked on a project to study behaviors of black bears for which there is little documentation to date – and they’re asking the general public for help.Bears have been known to bite and scratch trees, but FLCC professor John Van Niel learned about a little-known bear behavior while assisting two researchers from Walnut Hill Tracking and Nature Center in Massachusetts: deep tracks that bears appear to have deliberately retread.Van Niel’s students contacted bear experts throughout North America and combed through texts, but they uncovered little research about these deeply-imprinted tracks. They want to find out if black bears in western New York make these unique trails, and if there could be a relationship between the trails and any bite or scratch marks on nearby trees. Van Niel believes they may be linked to males claiming territory.Since launching the project in the fall, Van Niel has received information on bite marks at bears@flcc.edu. He and his students hope more information will turn up as people hunt, hike and cross-country ski in the Finger Lakes and western New York.

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